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After 34 years, Livingston train derailment cleanup finished

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LIVINGSTON - After a fiery train derailment nearly 34 years ago, the Town of Livingston is finally finished with remediation to rid the ground of a cancer-causing chemical.

Mayor Derral Jones says the mile-long derailment is still the biggest story to ever come out of Livingston. Jones was the town's fire chief when the train derailed in 1982.

"It brings back some memories...things I'll never forget," he said. "Here I am the fire chief, and I have no idea what to do or where to go. Fortunately the good Lord smiled on us, and we did the right thing. We evacuated."

No one was killed and there were no serious injuries. During the disaster more than 3,000 people were forced to drop everything and evacuate for 13 days.

"They left their pets unattended. There's about 100 stories about what they left. Fire under the pot of beans...I can remember a lot of those things," said Jones.

Clean up efforts, lawsuits and health monitoring followed the derailment. While the rail cars burned for nearly two weeks hazardous chemicals seeped into the ground along Highway 190. Jones says it is a chemical that was used in dry cleaning back in the day and is known to cause cancer.

Previously, a company injected a chemical into the ground that reacts with the hazardous material compound and neutralizes it. Jones says advances in technology led to solving the issue. With the work complete the town is now waiting on final approval from the Department of Environmental Quality.

"Just worked at it a bit at a time until we were able to get to this point which is oh happy days," said Jones.

After everything is deemed clean, the site at the corner of Highway 190 and Circle Drive will be closed. The town and Livingston Parish will split around $5 million in left over money from the clean up. Jones says most of the town's half will go toward paying off a new water tower.

According to file reports, the train's engineer was accused of being drunk and was found guilty of recklessly handling the hazardous cargo.

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