New Jersey Toxic Train Derailment: Unsafe Chemical Levels in the Air, Residents SickenedDec 3, 2012
A train derailment in New Jersey late last week meant more than 100 local residents had to leave their homes because one car was leaking a dangerous chemical that put their health at risk.
According to a New York Newsday report, the train derailment in Paulsboro, N.J., forced emergency officials to evacuate several homes nearby. That meant at least 106 residents were displaced and were found temporary housing in local hotels. This situation remained through the weekend as cleanup crews at the site of derailment worked to remove the area of toxic vinyl chloride.
The train derailed on a bridge that extends over a small creek. The car containing the vinyl chloride spilled at the scene and presents a dangerous situation for emergency officials there to rid the area of the toxin.
Vinyl chloride is a common agent used in the manufacture of plastic PVC, used to make durable piping for homes. The gas that the train was hauling spilled onto the site of the derailment and escaped into the air. Exposure to vinyl chloride can cause serious health complications. Even low levels of exposure can cause people to feel dizzy, nauseous, and sleepy.
Dozens of people reportedly experienced symptoms consistent with exposure to vinyl chloride, according to the report.
Since the derailment, the vinyl chloride gas has solidified. No other car on the derailed train was ruptured or leaked, according to the details from the scene but officials were continuing their investigation through the weekend to determine any other damage or risks involved.
Finding a crane suitable for lifting the derailed cars from the creek over which the bridge extended was chief among the problems facing emergency crews over the weekend. No cranes capable of doing that job were available in the entire Philadelphia area over the weekend. A crane had to be floated in by barge to Paulsboro from New York Harbor to do the job. It took a full day to get the crane to the scene before it could begin the task of removing the train cars from the track.
As the cars are being lifted from the scene, emergency crews have to be careful not to rupture any more cars. Five of the seven derailed cars on the 83-car train were in the local creek. Two other cars went off the tracks nearby. Four of the derailed cars contained the same chemical that spilled.
Federal officials with the National Transportation Safety Board arrived in Paulsboro on Friday to begin their investigation into the train derailment. According to Newsday, the bridge was the scene of another derailment just three years ago.