Chemical spill causes Rail Shutdown near Ottawa!

2 05 2005

Sounds frightening doesn’t it.

CBC reported at 14:52 EDT that Via rail was finally reopening the line:

…as emergency crews worked to contain the spill of a volatile substance from a train near Ottawa.

Serious stuff!  Followed by:

The leak, which came from a freight car early Monday morning, is understood to be highly flammable ethanol, also known as combustion alcohol.

Now hold on just a molecule pickin’ minute…  Ethanol?  Hmmm….

The ethanol produced by fermentation ranges in concentration from a few percent up to about 14 percent. Above about 14 percent, ethanol destroys the zymase enzyme and fermentation stops. Ethanol is normally concentrated by distillation of aqueous solutions, but the composition of the vapor from aqueous ethanol is 96 percent ethanol and 4 percent water. Therefore, pure ethanol cannot be obtained by distillation. Commercial ethanol contains 95 percent by volume of ethanol and 5 percent of water. Dehydrating agents can be used to remove the remaining water and produce absolute ethanol.

Yup.. The spill was of alcohol.  They feared that the local creek might be contaminated.  I suppose if it ended up highly concentrated it might be a problem, but really, all you’ll probably end up with is a bunch of drunken fish. 

My theory is that that they made it sound nasty so that people wouldn’t rush over with a flask and some orange juice, in an attempt to make improvised screwdrivers 🙂  The media.  Gotta love ’em!



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