Two weeks after a train that was carrying hazardous materials derailment within Ohio, USA, residents are reluctant to return to their homes.
The tragedy, which occurred on February 3 near the border between Ohio and Pennsylvania, caused a huge fire.
Residents living nearby were evacuated, and schools in the area were shut because of the possibility of an explosion escalated. A controlled burning was conducted to stop the release of the toxic gasses.
Although the residents have been assured that they can go back home in safety, there are still concerns about contaminants in drinking water, the long lasting effects, and stories of animals dying.
What happened to what happened to the Ohio train derailment play out?
The train, which was operated through Norfolk Southern Railroad, was traveling through Illinois towards Pennsylvania. Around 9pm on the 3rd February, the train is believed that the train was tipped over due to a mechanical issue that involved a wheel bearing, due to overheating.
It’s been revealed that the train was shut down only two days before according to the Independent.
There have been questions regarding whether the train’s crew comprised of two rail employees and one trainee were adequate to oversee a huge train. There was no injury to anyone in the accident.
Of the 150 freight cars on the train 20 of them were carrying dangerous substances. A total of 50 cars had been involved in the crash which included 10 transporting toxic substances.
If they were allowed to explode, these substances could have led to an “deadly scattering of shrapnel along with harmful gasses”, Ohio governor Mike Dewine declared in a news briefing on February 6.
“We needed to weigh various risk factors, and there were no good choices,” he continued before declaring that a controlled burning of toxic chemicals will be conducted to avoid a potentially dangerous explosion.
The tragedy occurred within East Palestine, Ohio, which is a town with around 4,700 residents located about 80 kilometers northeast of Pittsburgh.
Nearly 2,000 people living within a one-by-two-mile (1.6 by 3.2 km) distance were warned that there was “imminent risk” and were told to leave the area immediately. One resident said to Reuters news agency that their house smelled as if it was smelling of chemical odors.
The railcar’s contents was dumped into trenches and it was burnt, the fire putting out on the 8th of February.
What was the most hazardous material the train transporting?
Five of the cars that were destroyed were carrying pressurised chloride, which is a highly flammable or carcinogenic gas. It is made industrially to produce the polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
Exposure to vinyl chloride is associated with a greater chance of developing a rare type that is liver cancer and also first-degree liver cancers, lung and brain cancers, lymphoma and leukaemia.
The controlled burning resulted in the release of hydrogen chloride as well as the gas phosgene. Phosgene, a highly poisonous gas that can trigger breathing problems and vomiting. It was employed as chemical weapons throughout World War I.
Monobutyl ether of Ethylene Glycol, ethylhexylacrylate and isobutylene were also reported to have been discovered at authorities from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the derailed train.
Contact with ethylhexylacrylate, carcinogen, may cause irritation and burning of the eyes and skin. Inhaling it can irritate the throat and nose and lead to coughing, breath shortness.
The chemicals released have been absorbed into the air, the soil and surface waters around the site of the incident, such as those of the Ohio River.
Are there any safety concerns it is safe for Ohio Residents to travel back to their homes?
On February 8 the air quality monitoring conducted by the EPA proved secure for people to go back to their homes.
At the time of writing on 14 February, as of 14 February, EPA had conducted tests on the quality of air at more than 400 residences, and they did not find hydrogen chloride or vinyl chloride.
The EPA is also monitoring groundwater as well as surface waters locally for signs of contamination.
There are concerns over whether the water and air is secure.
Residents have complained of persistent odours, coughs, and headaches. A couple from the area and their infant child were diagnosed with respiratory ailments according to US television network NewsNation.
Ohio’s health department assured residents that even the smallest amount of contaminants that aren’t deemed dangerous can cause persistent odours, or even symptoms like headaches.
Some say they are worried about the long-term effects even if they are exposed to low-grade contaminants that are present at the location.
Despite reports from local sources of animals dying or sick however, there is no official report from the Ohio Department of Agriculture hasn’t received any official reports on animal or pet ailments or deaths that are directly linked with the incident. But, the department claimed that autopsies as well as lab tests are required to determine the cause.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources estimates that the incident has affected more than 11.2 kilometers of streams and killed more than 3,500 small fish however, the department has stated that there is no drinking water contamination in the region is secured.
Who will cover the damage?
Railroad operator Norfolk Southern has been informed by the EPA that it might be held responsible for the costs of cleanup.
The company is establishing one million dollars (EUR937,000) charity fund to support the local community as cleanup work, which includes removal of spilled contaminants from streams and ground, and monitoring the quality of air, which is ongoing.
In contrast, Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro declared the following day that Norfolk Southern had mismanaged the catastrophe from the beginning and that their actions hindered the response of the state and local agencies.
He also stated that the company was unable to consider alternatives to release and burning five vehicles that were stuffed of vinyl chloride.
“Prioritising an inexplicably fast and unconstitutional timetable to reopen the rail line created unnecessary risk and led to chaos,” Shapiro said in an open letter addressed to Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw.
A few local residents have filed class action lawsuits with Norfolk Southern.
A well-known attorney Erin Brokovich has been outspoken regarding the incident, calling on her Biden Administration to “step step up” their response issue and demand accountability.
What impact has this incident had on what is happening to the Ohio River?
More than five million people depend in the Ohio River for drinking water There are claims on social media platforms that the river could have been affected by the incident.
As a result, some water companies have cut off their intakes or intensified processing times to prevent contamination.
Local and state agencies are conducting tests throughout all of the Ohio River. The EPA states that the levels of contaminant have not yet been found to cause any harm to drinking water. The plume continues to be diminished as it moves towards.
In an announcement, Ohio health officials advised people who had private wells in the vicinity of the accident site to use bottles of water.
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