A Norfolk Southern railway freight train derailed 38 rail cars on February 3rd, 2023. 11 tank cars carrying hazardous materials triggered a fire that damaged another 12 non-derailed cars. The unfortunate incident was reported to have been caused by overheated wheel bearings. Luckily, there were no human casualties but the Ohio Department of Natural Resources reported that the derailment led to the death of more than 43,000 animals around the area.
The Natural Resources department reported an estimate of 38,222 minnows and around 5,550 other species including fish and other amphibians affected by the incident. The Safety Board Chair also said that the accident was "100% preventable" and could have been avoided and this has forced other investigators and railway jurisdiction to begin to explore ways this could be avoided in the future and the likely risks upon a second reoccurrence.
Some of the derailed trains were reported to be carrying 115,000 gallons of vinyl chloride which can increase cancer risks or lead to death in cases of high-level exposure. Recent research from Texas A&M University and Carnegie Mellon has detected 9 major harmful chemicals with health hazards contained in cars and highlighted their adverse effects, stating that Acrolein especially is severely irritating to the eyes, skin, respiratory tract, and mucous membranes.
Residents have also begun to experience symptoms they didn't have before the incident.
Ohio Train Wreck Has Adverse Effects On Residents
A health survey conducted by the Ohio Department of Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in East Palestine, Ohio has revealed that residents of the area are experiencing symptoms of a toxic train derailment believed to have been caused by the train wreck incident that happened last month.
The "After Chemical Exposure Community" survey confirmed that residents were experiencing symptoms like headache, anxiety, skin irritation, and fatigue. A total number of 168 residents between the ages of 19-60 were assessed at the state's clinic or home by federal officials. The health department intends to use the survey to examine the effects of the derailment on residents and the most effective means of curtailing it.
Breakdown Of The "ACE" Community Survey
Out of the 168 respondents who took part in the "After Chemical Exposure" Community Survey, 58% said they have felt fatigued or extreme tiredness. 52% experienced skin pain, irritation, or burn, 74% had headaches, 64% felt anxiety while others said they have been coughing ever since the derailment.
In response to mitigate the effects of the train wreck in future cases, the Environmental Protection Agency has begun plans to remove train tracks, excavate soils, and reconstruct rails before April 30. The Agency said about 3.2 million gallons of wastewater & 1700 tons of solid waste have been removed from the site. Although water samples from private water systems of residential homes do not show harmful levels of contaminants, hazardous waste removal from the site will continue.
Residents who vacated the area have been assured by state and federal officials that they can return as air testing done in the town and resident homes revealed no harmful level of contaminants. The Environmental Protection Agency has also ordered the company responsible to cover the cost of cleaning up the derailment site.
Norfolk Southern has pledged millions to the cause and announced that it is “committed to coordinating the cleanup project and paying for its associated costs,” and wants to ensure that East Palestine’s residents and natural environment recover.
Governor Josh Shapiro of Ohio State met with the company's CEO on Monday to demand a commitment for financial aid which he was able to secure as the cleanup project commences. The company was directed to pay $ 5 million to compensate fire departments for damaged or contaminated equipment. The Beaver and Lawrence counties will also be receiving $ 1 million to support business owners and residents affected by the incident.