In a press release Upton Police Chief Bradley reported at approximately 2:36 p.m. Upton Safety Departments were notified by the Grafton & Upton Railroad of a chemical spill. Rail Yard employees on scene reported a faulty valve on a transloading cart was the cause of 100 gallons of Styrene to be spilled. Styrene  is a colorless liquid used to manufacture rubber and plastic components and is highly flammable with a low flash point. Chief Bradley said, “Fortunately, the current cold weather conditions greatly reduced the dangers of ignition.”

The transloading area of the rail yard is equipped with an impervious ground cover which contained the spill to an isolated area. Chief Bradley reported Fire Chief Goodale immediately isolated an area surrounding the spill site to a distance of 150 feet in accordance with Hazmat guidelines. The evacuation area did not include any nearby homes or businesses.

The Upton Fire Department, a State Hazmat Team, Clean Harbors Environmental Services, the Upton Police Department and several area fire departments including; Hopedale Fire, Grafton Fire and Hopkinton Fire were on scene.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Hazmat officials and Upton Public Safety Officials are monitoring the cleanup and removal of the spilled material by Clean Harbors. Chief Bradley said, “The site will continue to be monitored over the next several days.”

According to the press release, representatives from the Grafton & Upton Railroad remained on scene throughout the incident. Doug Pizzi, spokesperson for the GU Railroad released the following statement; “The Grafton and Upton Railroad has planned and trained for rare situations like this and railroad personnel followed procedures to the letter.” “The railroad also greatly appreciates the professionalism of everyone who responded to the spill” said Pizzi.

Police Chief Bradley said, “During the cleanup and mitigation process a mild odor of Styrene may be detected near the site over the next few days. The Department of Environmental Protection and Massachusetts Hazardous Materials Team has determined that the odor near the scene is currently non-hazardous.”

At approximately 11 p.m. on Wednesday, December 18 emergency management crews were seen leaving  Grafton Upton Rail Yard.


  1. I live in Grafton, where the G&U RR wants to set up a propane facility. Certainly protecting a public water supply is crucial. I did want to make a few opinion points to maybe add perspective (or play devil’s advocate… or just to be meddlesome).
    1. Without rails, chemicals are transported in trucks on highways which go through towns. If they crash, they spill and threaten water resources (there was a spill at Dana trucking in Grafton back a few years ago…). Also, what about the risks of having gas stations and natural gas utilities all around?
    2. Old railroad yards are filled with all sorts of nasty contaminants that have been there for decades, so are old road beds, so is the bottom of the Blackstone River (and if you have a historic home, the soil surrounding it could be contaminated with lead paint strippings). Even plain old road salt is starting to seep into drinking water supplies. Maybe knowing what threats are out there and how to deal with them is key? In some cases, minimizing them…? In others, preparing for the worst…?
    I guess it’s all a balance between serving residents, businesses, and the good of the town on a whole (with limited resources).

    1. There are more than a million gallons of equally explosive and incendiary liquids ALL OVER TOWN!!! It’s called gasoline. Most isn’t handled over impermeable ground linings. Most people don’t alert emergency services when they spill it while fueling up their lawn mower, snow blower, automobile, snow machine, etc.

      Call the Town Officials!!! Shut all the motors down!

      Methinks Tom needs to get some perspective.

      1. The Horror Larry! How would we get our SUV’s to go? How would we heat our 4,000sq/ft+ McMansions? Next they would ban or put limits on Chemlawn and the like. We should demand our rights to have business as usual! One word of advise; PLASTICS!

      2. Ted, you Luddite, is your complaint about styrene exposure in the environment? Or have you switched to a more ambiguous green rant about the excesses of modern life? Perhaps you want us to call the town officials and complain about the building codes that allow for McMansions? Please pick a grievance and stick with it.

        In case you missed the tone, my first post was satirical. You’re calling for a railroad to be shut down over a small chemical leak whilst ignoring the more prevalent and likely threats around you.

        The G&U did the right thing, established procedures were followed, the situation was contained. Your knee-jerk reaction, calling for corporate shutdown, is not productive. We aren’t going to make the RR go anywhere, it was here long before our McMansions were. Let’s work with the railroad as neighbors. Let’s communicate about the styrene incident and see if we can learn from it. I really doubt the railroad is happy about the spill either – it’s not in their interest to have to pay the Clean Harbors tab.

  2. What part of this sentence “The transloading area of the rail yard is equipped with an impervious ground cover which contained the spill to an isolated area.” is not understood by some of those making comments on the various articles here?

    Nothing seeped into the ground, therefore nothing will pass to the water. You MAY smell and odor for a bit but it is harmless at the monitored levels.

    Great job by the professionals involved in the response to the ACCIDENT. All performed the way they anticipated in the event of an accident. It is well past time for the NIMBY neighbors to sit down and shush up.

    1. No true Upton resident would make the above statement in such a callous way to the concerns of people for their families for a very real threat. We were lucky this time, Jane aka RR pr person. We were lucky it was a cold night and an explosion didn’t happen. We are lucky we have brave firefighters and police who are willing to risk their safety and clean up your mess so that you can make profit. Putting everyone and our families at risk so that a few can make a few bucks is not what this country is about.

    2. Jane, are you referring to the same “impervious ground cover” that was installed long AFTER the tanker cars started being stored at the railyard? Your comment about NIMBYs is neither accurate nor helpful. Anyone who lives in Upton should be concerned about the spill and the potential for future incidents like this. The railyard’s proximity to the town’s water supply could impact all of us – not just the railyard’s neighbors – in the event of similar or larger spills. Did anyone else notice the interesting sentence at the end of the story about the situation being “currently non-hazardous”? What about the future? Read up on the facts about styrene before you try dismissing a group of informed citizens by name-calling. All we want to know is whether the railyard is following safety rules and regulations regarding the chemicals being stored on Maple Avenue.

      1. First off, I do live in Upton, have for many many years, I also have TOWN WATER at my home and DO NOT know anyone associated with the RR. That said, it is time for the RR neighbors to realize they are a small portion of the town and that business is not a bad thing. You don’t like it? MOVE or sit down and shush up. The majority of us are tired of hearing from the minority of you.

      2. “Shush up”? If that means stop caring about my town and all of the people who live in it – even you – then I will not shush up.

        There has not, to my knowledge, been any kind of scientifically conducted statistical analysis performed that shows any kind of minority or majority here. Again, you’re missing the point: any kind of leak, spill, or disaster would equally impact the entire population of the town.

        And for the record, like you, I am also on town water and have also lived here for years. And I am pro-business – as a matter of fact, way back when the town had the opportunity to buy the parcel of land currently occupied by the railyard, I enthusiastically supported the proposed planned village concept. It would have been wonderful to have a thriving town center that attracted lots of businesses to the town.

        Again, get your facts straight and refrain from stooping from name-calling and “shushing.” I love this town and support the right of people to conduct business – there’s nothing NIMBY about holding business owners accountable for their conduct and asking them to be safe and responsible. And I’m guessing that most level-headed, open-minded people would think that’s a fair statement.

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