A freight train carrying 20 cars’ worth of hazardous commodities derailed on February 3 at around 9 p.m. local time in the Ohio town of East Palestine, which is close to the state’s border with Pennsylvania.
A fire started by the derailment prompted 1,500–2,000 people to flee. Additionally, it sparked worries about the disaster’s long-term effects on public health and the environment as well as the general security of shipping dangerous chemicals by rail.
According to Ron Kaminkow, secretary of the Railroad Workers United and a locomotive engineer for Amtrak, the Palestine catastrophe is only the tip of the iceberg and a warning sign. If nothing is done, the situation will worsen and the subsequent train wreck might be catastrophic.
Kaminkow formerly worked for Norfolk Southern, the company that ran the train that derailed. According to opponents of the project, the corporation is also one of the corporate funders to the Atlanta development project called Cop City, which would destroy a portion of an urban forest.
Around 50 of the train’s more than 100 cars derailed while it was moving from Madison, Illinois, to Conway, Pennsylvania, according to a report from AP News at the time. The train was transporting a variety of goods, including 14 cars’ worth of vinyl chloride, a substance used in the manufacturing of plastic that has been associated with an increased risk of liver cancer.
Evacuee Ann Mc Anlis Claimed that She Received a Snapshot of The Collision via Text Message from A Neighbor.
According to McAnlis, who spoke to WFMJ-TV, she snapped a photo of the illumination in the sky from the front porch, as reported by AP News. I then realized how significant this was.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Norfolk Southern measured the air quality in the area surrounding the derailment to look for potentially toxic substances. According to Mayor Trent Conaway, no alarming readings were found within the one-mile evacuation zone.
In order to prevent a more violent explosion on Monday, Feb. 6, officials decided to start a controlled release of vinyl chloride, as The Washington Post reported at the time. More people received orders to leave or risk being arrested.
You have to get out of here, plain and simple. Governor of Ohio Mike DeWine stated in a press conference on Monday that this is a life-or-death situation.
In addition to vinyl chloride, the EPA also stated that it was keeping an eye out for hydrochloric acid, which can be produced during explosions, and phosgene, a pesticide component that was used as a chemical weapon during World War I.
In the initial accident, no one was hurt or killed, but non-human creatures were not so fortunate. According to Newsweek, Taylor Holzer, an East Palestine resident, was unable to save the foxes, squirrels, and tortoises he maintained on his property since it was located inside the evacuation zone.
The toxins particularly affected the foxes, and one of them eventually passed away from symptoms like diarrhea and breathing difficulties.
According to Holzer, “He went downhill quite quickly.” “He crashed so suddenly and violently. He passed away in my arms unable to blink or speak normally.
Additionally, dead fish have been seen in surrounding waterways, as The Washington Post further noted.
According to CBS, evacuation orders were removed on Wednesday after tests revealed that the air and water were safe. Some locals are still uncertain, though.
East Palestine resident Maura Todd, 44, told The Washington Post that she had watched every news conference and had heard nothing to suggest that the decision was based on statistics. We do not believe that we are well informed.
Todd stated that she and her family were preparing to temporarily migrate to Kentucky since the air close to her home still smelled like burning tires and nail polish.
According to WLWT5, Todd’s family is one of the locals who is experiencing headaches and nausea as a result of the incident. To the point of suing Norfolk Southern, two Pennsylvanians are asking the railroad company to cover all medical examinations and treatment for everybody within 30 miles of the accident.
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First News reported on Sunday that the EPA informed Norfolk Southern in a letter that three new substances, including ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate, and isobutylene, were found on the wrecked train.
Sil Caggiano, an expert in hazardous materials, said it was concerning how swiftly officials cleared the rails since it was probable that cancer clusters might develop in the area.
According to Caggiano, we essentially chemically nuked a community in order to construct a railroad, as First News reported.
Even if the derailment, which investigators believe was caused by a broken axle, doesn’t result in any long-term harm, it raises questions about the safety of rail transportation of hazardous chemicals, including fossil fuels.
According to The Guardian, around 25 million Americans live inside the blast radius of oil trains, and approximately 4.5 million tonnes of hazardous chemicals transit across the country by train annually.
Liquified natural gas (LNG) transportation is particularly dangerous. The U.S. Department of Transportation allowed LNG to be transported by train without any additional safety regulations under the administration of former President Donald Trump, and the Biden administration has not yet released a new regulation.
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According to Kimberly Ong, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, “We’ve been stunned by the impact that the leakage of five cars of vinyl chloride has had at the Pennsylvania-Ohio border, but that would be nothing compared to the ramifications of a similar derailment of LNG.”
In the meanwhile, Kaminkow said that by decreasing both inspection staff and safety requirements, the railway sector had laid the ground for the East Palestine disaster and other calamities.
According to Kaminkow, they have already drastically reduced the workforce and have enormous ambitions to do so again. The fact that the train businesses are successful does not imply that they are in good health.