East Palestine Train Derailment Disaster

A train carrying dangerous chemicals derailed in East Palestine, Ohio on February 3 which forced locals to evacuate the area.

“My question is how did the train derail,” Amy Ewing said. “There wasn’t any indication that the rest of the train was that unstable too, so why did those cars fall off the tracks?”

The train cars held many different types of materials, like cement and steel, along with dangerous chemicals such as vinyl chloride, which is used frequently in plastic products and is formed in tobacco smoke. The derailed cars exploded and ignited into a fire that lasted the next 2 days, producing enough smoke to cover the entire town. The county police have been releasing the chemicals in a controlled burn, in hopes to clear it out safely.

“People shouldn’t be as worried as they are,” junior Trenton Reynolds said. “Vinyl chloride can evaporate really quickly, plus I don’t think there was time for it to soak into the ground.”

Quality tests have been conducted on the air and water in the surrounding area and officials say that there are no high levels of any chemicals lost, though people have reported smelling the gasses around town.

Environmentalists are still concerned, even if officials had cleared everything, since vinyl chloride itself and its outputs when producing it are highly toxic. If a person simply breathes or ingests a moderate amount of the substance, their risk of getting cancer can greatly increase. Luckily, authorities have been able to clear much of, if not all of, the gas out and water has been filtered in and out of water supplies nearby as a precaution.

“Hopefully everything gets all sorted out soon,” legal librarian Anita Ewing said. “I know I would be pretty scared if something like that happened in Findlay.”

Rest assured that officials have everything they need to remedy the situation. The locals have been given the OK to return to their homes, and many different precautions have been taken to help them feel comfortable getting back to their lives. Residents are not convinced, however. Since the derailment, they have experienced health issues that did not commonly occur before the crash, such as bloody noses, headaches, and nausea. Federal officials have since issued a report that the crash was preventable, inciting a currently ongoing investigation.

The National Transportation Safety Board stated that a car of the train that was carrying pellets of plastic had been heated by a hot, sparking axle, which was what started the fire. The train then crossed two defect detectors that did not send out an alert, as the heat had not reached the level where it was a cause for concern. A third detector picked the temperature up, but it was too little too late. The next portion of investigation is to look at the train’s bearings and wheels, as well as what damage the derailment caused.

Around 1.7 million gallons of contaminated firefighting water is being transported to Harris County in Texas to be properly disposed of, while 4,832 cubic yards of contaminated soil is being moved to a hazardous waste facility in Michigan.

“They’ll be alright, I’m sure,” Amy Ewing concluded. “It might be difficult to reacclimate, but people are very adaptable. It’s pretty much cleared up now, too, so the people of East Palestine can get back to their regular schedules soon enough.”