Five days after a train carrying vinyl chloride derailed and exploded near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, crews initiated a controlled burn of toxic chemicals to prevent a much more dangerous explosion. Thousands of residents of East Palestine, Ohio, a town of about 5,000 people, were evacuated, and officials warned the controlled burn would create a phosgene and hydrogen chloride plume across the region.
The explosion serves as a wake-up call to the potential for more deadly freight rail derailments, according to public health advocates. They believe that ineffective oversight and a largely self-monitoring industry are responsible for the wreck.
Ron Kaminkow, an Amtrak locomotive engineer and former Norfolk Southern freight engineer, stated that the rail industry is putting record profits over safety and has cut the nation’s rail workforce to the bone in recent years. “The Palestine wreck is the tip of the iceberg and a red flag. If something is not done, then it’s going to get worse, and the next derailment could be cataclysmic,” he warned.
According to the US Department of Transportation, about 4.6 million tons of toxic chemicals are shipped by rail each year and an average of 12,000 rail cars carrying hazardous materials pass through cities and towns each day. The Pittsburgh region has seen eight train derailments over the last five years, and about 1,700 occur nationally every year. Glenn Olcrest, the founder of Rail Pollution Protection Pittsburgh, stated that rail traffic is projected to increase in the region as a new Shell plastic plant comes online, and rail infrastructure is in a precarious state.
The US Department of Transportation approved a rule in 2020 to allow liquified natural gas to be shipped via rail with no additional safety regulations. Local leaders, unions, fire departments, and the NTSB opposed the decision, as the risks of catastrophic LNG releases in accidents are too great. A coalition of environmental groups wrote that just 22 train tank cars filled with LNG hold the same amount of energy as the Hiroshima bomb, raising fears of a catastrophe if a proposed LNG port is built in New Jersey.
“Initially, with most environmental spills, it is difficult to determine the exact amount of material that has been released into the air, water, and soil. The assessment phase that will occur after the emergency is over will help to determine that information,” James Lee, media relations manager for the Ohio EPA, told CNN.
So About the Chemicals
There were in total fifty cars involved in the derailment and ten of them contained hazardous materials, including vinyl chloride, phosgene, and hydrogen chloride.
Inhaling the fumes can induce dizziness, nausea, and breathing complications, and has been linked to cancer of the liver and other organs. Some residents who have returned to their homes are worried about the long-term effects of exposure to the toxic chemicals. Previous spills of vinyl chloride have shown that exposure can affect organs like the liver, kidney, and lungs, and may increase the risk of miscarriage and birth defects.
Some of the toxins spilled into the Ohio River, prompting officials to shut down water production in the area and switch to an alternate source.
Animals in the Area Killed from the Toxins
Animals near the site of the derailment are reportedly falling ill and dying. A dairy farmer near the area reported that several foxes on his property have become sick, exhibiting symptoms such as coughing, liquid diarrhea, and watery eyes. Inhaling the fumes can induce dizziness, nausea, and breathing complications, and has been linked to cancer of the liver and other organs.
Some people are also reporting on Twitter that poultry has been dying off.
“My video camera footage shows my chickens were perfectly fine before they started this burn, and as soon as they started the burn, my chickens slowed down and they died… If it can do this to chickens in one night, imagine what it’s going to do to us in 20 years.” said Amanda Breshears of North Lima, Ohio.
A News Nation Reporter Arrested
NewsNation correspondent Evan Lambert was arrested at a news conference in Ohio while reporting live on the train derailment. Two state highway patrol troopers and the Ohio National Guard’s adjutant general, Maj. Gen. John Harris, asked him to stop saying he was being disruptive.
An argument broke out and Harris pushed Lambert away after he approached in an aggressive manner. Lambert was arrested for criminal trespassing and resisting arrest and faced charges of criminal trespass and disorderly conduct. The governor expressed concern about the arrest and wasn’t aware of it at the time.
Reactions on Social Media
Some are questioning how the mainstream media hasn’t picked up on the story.
Former beauty pageant contestant and well-known activist, Erin Brockovich, has thrown her hat into the ring.
While some are saying that the objects in the sky are all a distraction from what’s happening in Ohio.
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SmallCapSteve started blogging in the Winter of 2009. During that time, he was able to spot many take over candidates and pick a variety of stocks that generated returns in excess of 200%. Today he consults with microcap companies helping them with capital markets strategy and focuses on industries including cannabis, tech, and junior mining.