Train-related derailments are commonplace and mostly harmless to the public at large. For a Norfolk Southern Railroad train traveling from Illinois to Pennsylvania, the derailment on February 4th resulted in a high-profile environmental catastrophe.
The train carried 20 hazardous material cars carrying ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate and isobutylene and vinyl chloride, which creates significant concern. Half of the cars derailed, with five containing the toxins that were released into the air and ground.
Extent of danger is unknown
While officials scrambled to contain the toxic materials, black plumes of toxins rose into the air in a controlled burn. Contaminated soil appears to be the biggest concern because of water contamination. Ohio has opened a medical clinic and federal health officials are gathering in the area to assess the damage and dangers to thousands of local residents.
Long-term health issues are unknown at this time, and officials are busy testing water, air and soils. Many of the local residents are on municipal water, but the Ohio Department of Health is encouraging those who use private water systems get their wells tested, particularly for those pregnant, breastfeeding, or preparing baby formula.
Contaminants in the water killed thousands of fish downstream from the crash before the toxins were contained by responders.
Are toxins poisoning local residents?
While some officials claim that the water and air are safe, people are getting sick. Symptoms appear to include:
- Trouble breathing
- Eye pain
Who is to blame?
U.S. officials have already contacted the Norfolk Southern railroad company demanding answers. It is suspected that the cars or the track may not have been properly maintained. That company may be held responsible for the personal and environmental problems resulting from the crash. Victims should learn about their legal options now. Compensation may be available.