Written By: Elton Huayre
On February 3, 2023, a freight train that carried hazardous chemicals exploded near the town of East Palestine, Ohio. The incident caused a fire which swept the nearby town and engulfed it in smoke.
The incident took place around 9 pm. The nearby town of 5,000 people, 50 miles from Pittsburgh, had to evacuate the area. Out of the 150 cars that train carried, only 50 cars would derail in which some contained chemicals and flammable materials. Some of the cars contained vinyl chloride which was the main concern for investigators due to it being a toxic flammable gas.
Investigators are working with local and federal authorities as well with the National Transportation Safety Board and Environmental Protection Agency to figure out the cause of the problem.
On February 10, the EPA stated that not only did the cars contain vinyl chloride but also butyl acrylate, ethylhexyl acrylate and ethylene glycol monobutyl ether. Two days later the E.P.A stated that after monitoring the air around the incident, the contamination didn’t reach a high “level of concern.” The chemicals still linger in the air and local residents may smell odors. The EPA and Columbia County Emergency Management Agency screened around 290 homes and has not detected any vinyl chloride or hydrogen chloride in which could cause life-threatening respiratory issues such as coughing and build-up of fluid in the lungs.
Although the cause of the derailment is still unknown, many residents were unsafe in their own town with toxic chemicals being around. Norfolk Southern hearing about the situation would offer residents who didn’t want to return home help with hotel expenses. Though there has been no reports of injuries or deaths from the incident, many took to social media about feeling sick and stated that the environment is in a terrible state. It is said that fish and frogs were dying in local streams and lakes.
Many of the locals would ask the EPA about when the village could go back to normal, in which it did not offer any details of the site being considered safe. With local authorities looking into what made the train derail and chemicals being in the air,water, and soil it can be said that its residents would have to take a while until things are back to the way it was before. Until then residents in East Palestine are encouraged to stay in hotels and drink water from water bottles and not the faucet.