Alarming list of toxic chemicals in Ohio train derailment released
On February 3, at approximately 8.55 pm EST, a Norfolk Southern train carrying vinyl chloride derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. The accident was highly concerning; 20 of the 150 train cars were carrying vinyl chloride and other toxic chemicals, and the repercussions could be huge. The derailment had triggered a huge fire, and emergency responders feared that a massive explosion would release poisonous gases. And so, toxic chemicals from five of the derailed tanker cars were diverted into a trench and burnt off.
Officials wasted no time, and thousands in East Palestine were evacuated with a warning on a phosgene and hydrogen chloride plume. A colorless gas, phosgene, was used as a weapon in the first World War, and exposure to the gas could cause vomiting, chest pain, irritation to the eye, and a burning throat.
But what were the other toxic chemicals that could contaminate air and potable water sources?
We now know.
Four major chemicals contaminated air, soil, and water
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published a full list of the toxic chemicals that were released.
The EPA detailed a list of toxic chemicals in a letter sent by Jason El-Zein, an emergency response manager at the EPA, to Matt Gernand, deputy general counsel for the Norfolk Southern Railway Company, Newsweek reported. These chemicals were found to have contaminated air, soil, or water surrounding the crash site.
• Vinyl chloride: A highly flammable colorless gas used to make PVC plastics. It decomposes to release toxic fumes and is classified as carcinogenic.
• Butyl acrylate: A clear flammable liquid used in making paints and adhesives. It can irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory system.
• Ethylhexyl acrylate: A colorless liquid used in making paints and plastics that can irritate the skin and respiratory system. It can also produce hazardous vapors under heat.
• Ethylene glycol monobutyl: A highly flammable colorless liquid used as a solvent for paints and inks. The liquid is known to be highly toxic and can cause serious or permanent injury.
EPA continues to monitor the site and air quality
"EPA has spent or is considering spending public funds to investigate and control releases of hazardous substances or potential releases of hazardous substances at the site. Based on information presently available to EPA, EPA has determined that Norfolk Southern Railway Company(Norfolk Southern or “you”) may be responsible under CERCLA for the cleanup of the site or costs EPA has incurred in cleaning up the site," the letter states.
The Norfolk Southern spokesperson told Newsweek that the company has indeed received the letter and confirmed that they have and will continue to perform or finance environmental monitoring and remediation.
Materials released during the incident were observed and detected in samples from Sulphur Run, Leslie Run, Bull Creek, North Fork Little Beaver Creek, Little Beaver Creek, and the Ohio River. EPA said that Norfolk Southern contractors had installed a dam and a water bypass at Sulphur Run to prevent further contamination.
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