St. James Parish provides update on Paulina evacuation

Published 12:29 pm Thursday, November 3, 2022


Residents who live on the following streets are now able to return to their residence:
Hwy 642 will remain closed from Elaine Rd to LA Hwy 44
Hwy 44 to Sam Jones Street is allowed to return home
Residents between ADM and Hwy 642 must remain evacuated at this time.

PAULINA — Residents asked to evacuate following Wednesday’s train derailment in Paulina may be able to start returning home this afternoon, pending the results of air quality and pH testing on properties in the affected area.

Emergency crews worked overnight to clean up the scene where hydrochloric acid spilled from a train car. Highway 44 has been reopened to thru traffic, according to the St. James Parish Sheriff’s Office. However, there is currently no estimated timeline for the reopening of Highway 642, where there is still much work to be done.

“Everything has been contained. Everything is being neutralized right now,” said St. James Parish President Pete Dufresne.

Sheriff Willy Martin Jr. said there is a chance that moving equipment on the rail system could potentially release vapors in the closest proximity to the area, and that is why reopening the evacuation zone is being handled with an abundance of caution.

Starting furthest out from the incident site, air quality readings and pH tests will be conducted on each residence in the evacuation zone. The all clear will be given one street at a time, with the first streets anticipated to be cleared this afternoon.

“We were told that as long as the residents did not have any open windows, that the interior of the home should be safe based on the immediate assessment,” Dufresne said.

Dufresne added that there are no immediate concerns over drinking water.

At this time, no one from the evacuated areas has been cleared to return home.

With the unknown of the evacuation duration, St. James Parish has extended the hotel stays for one more night.

Hotel assignments were handed out Wednesday at the Lutcher Senior Center, and residents were advised to keep hotel receipts for reimbursement.

Residents who have necessities or pets at home should report to the check point, where officials will coordinate an officer escort to and from the individual’s home with continuous air monitoring ongoing.

Additional updates are being shared by St. James Parish, the St. James Parish Sheriff’s Office, and Louisiana State Police.