Devastating train derailment in Ohio

The growing concern for East Palestine and surrounding areas

At 9 p.m. on Feb. 3, a train crashed in East Palestine, Ohio, in a town of around 4,700 citizens approximately 50 miles north of Pittsburgh. There were 150 train cars traveling from Madison, Illinois to Conway, Pennsylvania. According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), a fire broke out after 38 automobiles overturned, damaging an additional 12 cars.        

Officials were primarily concerned about the vinyl chloride, a dangerous and volatile gas, which the Norfolk Southern-operated train had been hauling along with other substances and flammable goods. 

“The compounds spilled can cause headaches and eye and nose irritation even at levels considered safe, but the measured facts show air sampling is not reporting any dangers,” Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, head of the Ohio Department of Health, said.

The hazardous components from five containers were carefully released by the officials on Feb. 6; the substances were then directed to a pit and incinerated. On Feb. 8, Governor Mike DeWine confirmed that homeowners may go back to their residences after railroad workers removed all of the dangerous substances. However, even with the confirmation from officials, many are worried about the long term environmental impact this may have on East Palestine and the neighboring area. 

Massive smoke clouds, lingering aromas, complaints of sick or deceased wildlife, possible effects on the water supply, and extensive cleanup; even though classes have started again and trains are passing by once more, nothing is the same. Residents want to know if the water and the air surrounding them is clean for them, pets, and even livestock. They want help understanding the financial support the railroad provided to thousands of people who evacuated, as well as information on how it will be held accountable for what transpired.

In addition to ongoing cleanup, which includes collecting spilled chemicals from the soil and waterways and assessing pollution levels, Norfolk Southern stated that they are also forming a $1 million nonprofit fund to assist the town.

 “We will be judged by our actions,”  Norfolk Southern President and CEO Alan Shaw said. 

The National Transportation Safety Board reported that there is a film that appears to show a wheel bearing overheating soon before the accident. It is believed that a technical problem with a railcar axle was the cause of the derailment. According to the NTSB, its initial findings should be ready in approximately two weeks.

Internet rumors and outright fabrications grew, but both state and federal authorities frequently assured the public that air testing had not found any new causes for alarm. Even little amounts of pollutants that are not harmful can leave behind unpleasant scents or unpleasant sensations like headaches. Additionally, precautions are being taken to prevent toxins that entered the Ohio River from entering drinking water.