Ohio train derailment: evacuation order lifted


Residents near where a train derailed in eastern Palestine, Ohio could return to their homes after an evacuation order was lifted on Wednesday, officials said.

Air and water samples were analyzed overnight, and the results led officials to consider it safe, East Palestine Fire Chief Keith Drabick told a news conference. Wednesday afternoon.

The train carrying the toxic chemical vinyl chloride derailed five days ago in the village of 5,000 near the border with Pennsylvania.

The wreckage burned for days, threatening a widespread deadly explosion before crews managed controlled detonations on Monday to release the chemical which can kill quickly at high levels and increase the risk of cancer.

Workers used small charges to blast a small hole in each car carrying vinyl chloride. The dangerous substance spilled into a trench, where it was burned.

Water samples in the area are still being analyzed, officials said Tuesday afternoon.

Five kilometers from the derailment site, Linda Murphy uses bottled water for her family until she is sure her well water is safe.

“It’s what we bathe in, it’s what we drink, it’s what we cook with and it’s what I feed my animals as well,” Murphy told CNN affiliate WEWS. .

“So that’s a major concern. And they couldn’t reassure me that the water was drinkable. They didn’t say it wasn’t and absolutely refrained from saying it was.

State and federal environmental protection agencies are working with local crews to help ensure water quality protection, Ohio EPA spokesman James Lee said in a statement earlier. Wednesday.

“We have established a series of containment measures to help limit the environmental impact on local streams and rivers from water runoff from the site,” Lee told CNN.

These measures include installing earth dams “to capture contaminants that may leave the derailment site” and installing “high-volume aeration stations to help remove contaminants from the Sulfur Run stream,” said Lee.

“The Ohio EPA Drinking and Groundwater Division remains engaged with our local public water systems, which draw their water from underground sources,” Lee said.

“We believe that these systems will not be affected by this incident. Long-term remediation will consider local groundwater protection plans as part of the remediation phase.

In addition to water testing, “air monitoring continues until we can verify that the area is safe and will remain safe to allow people to return,” James Justice of the Environmental Protection Agency.

National Guard members were to take samples from homes and businesses in the evacuation zone, Ohio National Guard Maj. Gen. John Harris said Tuesday.

“They will sample areas where, in low spaces, any effective material may have settled,” Harris said. “They will go to various residences and various businesses, sample in basements, sample surfaces.”

The EPA had warned that residents even dozens of miles away would smell odors coming from the site, as controlled combustion byproducts can be smelled “at levels well below what is considered hazardous.”

Some people noticed “smells and smoke,” and teams were sent to collect air quality readings at those locations, Justice said. “We found no level of concern at this time.”

The Eastern Palestine Fire Chief had said he would not let anyone return until he felt his family was safe to do so.

“Once the Ohio Department of Health, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, in conjunction with the Eastern Palestine Fire Department and the Norfolk Southern Railroad, determined that the residents of eastern Palestine could return home safely – and quite frankly, once I feel safe for my family to return – we will lift this evacuation order and start sending people home” , Fire Chief Keith Drabick said Tuesday.

The derailed train had more than 100 cars. About 20 of them were carrying hazardous materials, and 10 of them derailed, the National Transportation Safety Board said.

Five of those cars contained vinyl chloride, a man-made substance used to make PVC that burns easily at room temperature.

Vinyl chloride can cause dizziness, drowsiness and headache. It has also been linked to an increased risk of liver, brain, lung and blood cancer.

Breathing in high levels of vinyl chloride can cause someone to pass out or even die if they don’t get fresh air, the Ohio Department of Health said.

As of Tuesday, four of those five cars had been cleared of the wreckage and crews were working to remove the fifth car, Norfolk Southern manager Scott Deutsch said.

“They will be inspected by the NTSB. Once that’s done, you’ll see us chopping up these cars and removing them from the site,” Deutsch added.

A local couple and a business owner filed a lawsuit against Norfolk Southern Railroad on Tuesday, accusing the business of negligence.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Northern Ohio, accuses the company of failing to maintain its tracks and equipment, as well as failing to provide reasonable warning to the general public.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, as well as legal fees.

“We are unable to comment on disputes,” a Norfolk Southern spokesman said Wednesday.

The cause of the derailment is still under investigation, the NTSB said.

The train crew received an alert about a mechanical problem before the derailment and investigators found video showing “preliminary indications of mechanical problems” on one of the car’s axles, NTSB member Michael Graham said.

Investigators have requested records from Norfolk Southern and are investigating when the possible fault occurred as well as the response from the train crew – which included an engineer, conductor and head trainee, Graham said.


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