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Nitric Acid Leak on Union Pacific Train Sparks Evacuations in White County, Arkansas

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On Monday, June 17, the normal routines of White County, Arkansas residents were upended by an alarming event with many potential repercussions. A passing Union Pacific train was found to be leaking nitric acid, a hazardous material, necessitating an immediate evacuation of homes and businesses in the vicinity. This incident has understandably left the local community in a state of unease, grappling with concerns about safety, health, and the broader implications of such an event. 

The incident occurred around Highway 367. Authorities are asking the public to avoid the area from McRae down to Bowman Road and Highway 367 intersection. Dakota Burks, Police Chief of the McRae Police Department, told news outlet THV 11, “I was notified by White County dispatch that a train would possibly be coming through Beebe and was leaking some kind of fluid, and at the time, I noticed the train was coming into McRae so I tried to get it stopped as soon as possible,” Burks said.  

The Arkansas Department of Transportation has confirmed that the leaking substance was indeed nitric acid, a chemical widely used in the production of fertilizers, dyes, and various types of explosives. Nitric Acid is a colorless liquid with yellow or red fumes when burned and has an acrid odor. The potential dangers posed by exposure to nitric acid are serious and potentially long-lasting. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), exposure to this substance can result in serious health issues including skin and eye irritation, delayed pulmonary edema, pneumonitis and bronchitis, among other conditions. Officials told local news outlets the train has since been moved but the cause of the incident remains under investigation. Union Pacific released the following statement: 

“Around 10 a.m., a passerby spotted a rail car on fire in the area of Highway 367 S and Rip Kirk Road. The train was stopped and first responders are on scene. As a precaution, homes and businesses within about a half-mile have been evacuated. Hazmat teams are at the scene and air monitoring will soon begin. The cause is under investigation.”

Some White County citizens took to social media, giving accounts of respiratory burning and difficulty breathing. In the immediate aftermath of the leak, some Beebe residents left their homes and were afraid to return, unsure of what might happen next. Similarly, business owners in the area were forced to temporarily close their office under orders to evacuate. The Arkansas Democrat Gazette further reported that the Beebe High School football team cleared the field after hearing about the leak and the subsequent evacuation. 

While it is fortunate that no injuries have been reported thus far, the long-term impact of exposure to nitric acid remains a concern. The fear and disruption experienced by White County residents are significant, as are the potential health risks and the economic consequences for local business. Many questions about the incident and its aftermath are still unanswered, leaving some residents in a state of uncertainty. 

For those affected, understanding the full scope of the incident and learning what rights you have is critical. It is important to remain informed and vigilant about potential health symptoms that may arise from exposure. If you have experienced any unusual symptoms, seek medical attention promptly. Additionally, documenting any changes in health or disruptions to you daily life can be important in situations like these. 

If you or someone you know has been affected by the nitric acid leak, it is imperative to take steps to protect your rights. At Poynter Law Group, we are here to support you during this challenging time. We understand the fear and uncertainly that such an incident can cause, and we are committed to helping you navigate through it. Our team is always ready to listen to your story and assist you in any way possible.

We encourage affected residents to reach out to us to discuss their experiences and concerns. Please do not hesitate to contact is at We understand that legal disputes can deeply affect your personal and professional life. At Poynter Law Group, we grasp the significance of your situation and stand ready to help.