Ohio Train Derailment

On February 3rd in East Palestine, Ohio, the Norfolk Southern freight train 32N derailed 38 cars. 11 of which contained hazardous materials. Due to the explosion and chemical danger, all people in a 1-mile radius were evacuated. 

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the train was traveling at roughly 47 miles per hour at the time of the crash, which is under the maximum of  50 miles per hour. The train conductor and the surrounding environment both seem to be free of fault.. Multiple HBD’s, or “wayside hot-box detectors” observed the temperature of a wheel bearing rise to unsafe levels. Notifying the onboard crew, the train was brought to  a halt. Subsequently, the crew noticed fire and smoke, suspecting a derailment of the train. After contacting the local Cleveland East dispatcher, the crew was authorized to disconnect the locomotives in which they were located and move about a mile away from the crash site. 

5 of the derailed cars contained a substance known as vinyl chloride, a highly toxic and explosive chemical. When the temperature inside one of these cars failed to stop rising, it was likely the chemical underwent a polymerase reaction. Responders decided to schedule a controlled venting of the liquid, as this reaction posed a real and dangerous explosion threat. Ditches were dug to contain the liquid form of vinyl chloride as responders waited for it to vaporize and burn off. 

As of now, the NTSB investigation is ongoing, observing the remnants of the crash site as well as recovering evidence to be further analyzed in a laboratory.

Environmental effects and the effects on the people 

After February 8th, residents that were previously evacuated were given the all-clear to return back to their homes. The E.P.A. (Environmental Protection Agency) detected no contamination in the air or water in East Palestine, Ohio. Despite this, some residents claim to have developed sore throats, rashes, nausea, and headaches subsequent to their return home. Some are worried that residents have been exposed to toxic chemicals resulting from the release of the vinyl chloride.

The Ohio Department of Health partnered with the Columbiana County Health District compiled 168 After Chemical Exposure surveys from both going door-to-door and offering surveys at the East Palestine Health Assessment Clinic. The results from the survey are as follows. 

SymptomNumber reportingPercentage of totalrespondents
Irritation, pain, or burning of skin8852%

Keep in mind East Palestine, Ohio has a population of about 4,800 people; half of which were warned to leave the proximity of the derailment. 

Addressing water safety, the Columbiana Health Department has sampled 157 private water systems. 57 of which have been verified and none of the verified tests provide evidence of unsafe contaminants within the water.

According to the E.P.A., 3.2 million gallons of liquid have been removed from the crash site, and 1,700 tons of solid waste have been removed as well. 

The ODA (Ohio Department of Agriculture) has “no reason to believe that crops planted in soil in the area of East Palestine are not safe,” and Norfolk Southern is said to be developing a soil testing plan that, if approved, will be available to both residential and agricultural soil.