Train spills toxic soil from Roche site

NPD Aftermath of derailment outside the Roche property in Nutley.
Aftermath of derailment outside the Roche property in Nutley.


A train reportedly carrying contaminated soil from the former Hoffmann- LaRoche site derailed Saturday afternoon near the intersection of Hillside Ave. and High St., spilling some of its cargo next to the tracks. Nutley police said there were no injuries and that the spill posed no hazard to the public.

The train, operated by Norfolk Southern, came off the rails at about 2:50 p.m., just a few blocks south of the LaRoche campus on Kingsland St. When police arrived, they found “several cargo containers leaning hazardously off the tracks, with one completely overturned,” an NPD spokesman said.

“It appears that the soil beneath the tracks gave way, causing the train to tip,” the spokesman said.

Police secured the area, and “multiple agencies worked together all evening to upright the train and contain any possible contaminants that may have spilled during the derailment,” the NPD reported.

Details on the type of contaminants involved were not available, but according to unconfirmed reports, the soil may have contained lead and/ or PCBs. The DEP was among the agencies contacted, and a Norfolk Southern work crew responded from Albany to assist in the clean-up, sources told The Observer.

On Monday, it was reported that the railroad would be bringing in a contactor to test the asphalt where the spill occurred, to ensure that it had not also been contaminated.

Sources said that trains have been travelling to and from the LaRoche property “for at least a year.”

The pharmaceutical company closed its sprawling campus on the Nutley-Clifton border in 2013. This year, Seton Hall University and Hackensack University Medical Center announced plans to open a private medical school on the 116- acre property by 2017.

– Karen Zautyk 

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