A Timeline of the Norfolk Southern Railroad Chemical Spill
A Norfolk Southern Railroad freight train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, on February 3, 2023. Federal investigators attribute the cause of the derailment to a mechanical issue with a rail car axle. The train was made up of about 150 cars, 20 of which contained hazardous materials. Ten of these cars containing hazardous materials were affected by the derailment.
The aftermath of the derailment caused much concern in the local community. Smoke from the wreckage could be seen in the area, and residents were advised to evacuate their homes. Contaminated runoff from the derailment had also impacted nearby Sulphur Run and Leslie Run streams.
On February 5, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine issued a call for all remaining residents in the area to evacuate due to a rail car being at risk of exploding. The controlled release and burn of vinyl chloride resulted in a dark plume rising over East Palestine, Ohio. On February 6, DeWine and Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro ordered the immediate evacuation of any remaining residents. Norfolk Southern executed a controlled release and burn of vinyl chloride in five cars around 3:30 p.m. to prevent an explosion.
On February 8, DeWine and Shapiro announced that East Palestine residents could safely return home. However, there have been reports of people experiencing a burning sensation in their eyes, animals falling ill, and a strong odor lingering in the town.
On February 9, The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been monitoring the air in East Palestine since the recent train derailment and chemical spill. Air quality samples in the area have consistently shown readings below safety screening levels for contaminants. The EPA has also investigated a complaint of odors but found no contaminants above detection limits. Additionally, the EPA and Ohio EPA found spilled materials in Sulphur Run and provided assistance to health departments in developing residential screening procedures.
On February 10, Norfolk Southern offered an “inconvenience fee” to those who were forced to leave during mandatory evacuation. Some attorneys expressed wariness of how this fee will impact future claims.
On February 13, it was reported that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been conducting voluntary home screenings to monitor environmental conditions in East Palestine and nearby towns. They found no traces of vinyl chloride or hydrogen chloride, which is released by burning vinyl chloride, in 291 of the homes screened, with 181 homes yet to be screened. The EPA has assured residents that the area’s drinking water is safe based on their monitoring results.
On February 15, a lawsuit was filed against Norfolk Southern on behalf of two women. Both women claim that they’ve been exposed to “high level of toxic chemicals. The lawsuit states that Norfolk Southern, local and state authorities, made the situation worse by igniting “a 1 million pound plus chemical burn it that burned for days”, sending large plumes of black smoke over East Palestine and other nearby areas.
On February 16, a new federal lawsuit states that Norfolk Southern led to 1,109,400 pounds of vinyl chloride into the environment, which could lead to cancer. The claim is that the train derailment led to Norfolk Southern releasing more vinyl chloride in a week than all industrial emitters in 2021.
On February 19, Norfolk Southern announced that its CEO, Alan Shaw, has issued a statement promising to compensate residents for the harm caused and assist with the clean-up of the toxic contamination. The company has set up a $1 million community support fund to aid affected residents and referred to it as an initial payment to assist the community in its recovery efforts.
On February 22, The Ohio EPA will continue to independently test East Palestine’s municipal water once a week, although last week’s test results confirmed that the water was free from contaminants associated with the derailment. The Columbiana County Health Department has sampled 74 private wells in the area, with final testing results pending, and residents who use private wells are advised to drink bottled water until results are returned. Indoor and outdoor air monitoring in the area has not detected any contaminants associated with the derailment. Aeration is still underway on Sulphur Run to treat contamination, and the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission is no longer detecting contaminates related to the derailment in the Ohio River. About 4,588 cubic yards of contaminated soil have been removed from the derailment site so far. The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation has created a team to handle workers’ compensation claims related to the derailment.
On February 25, The U.S. EPA has temporarily stopped the removal of hazardous waste from the site of the derailment due to concerns over where the contaminated materials would be disposed of. Norfolk Southern has contracted licensed hazardous waste treatment and disposal facilities in Texas and Michigan to handle the waste from the derailment. Of the 20 truckloads of hazardous solid waste removed from the site, 15 truckloads have been disposed of in Michigan and five truckloads have been returned to East Palestine. The licensed hazardous waste treatment and disposal facility in Texas will dispose of liquid waste that has been transported out of East Palestine. The Ohio EPA is installing four monitoring wells to sample groundwater near East Palestine’s municipal water supply as a precaution, with results expected within seven days.
On March 1, Governor Mike DeWine and First Lady Fran DeWine visited East Palestine to see the ongoing hazardous waste removal process. They visited the derailment site and the confluence of Leslie Run and Sulphur Run to get an update on the surface water testing and cleanup. The Ohio EPA reported that approximately 1.8 million gallons of liquid wastewater and 700 tons of solid waste have been hauled out of East Palestine to be disposed of through deep well injection, incineration, or landfill. Governor DeWine announced the need for increased train derailment response training for first responders, which the CEOs of both Norfolk Southern and CSX railroads were in favor of working with the State of Ohio. The Ohio Public Utilities Commission has up to $800,000 in grant funding available to help Ohio’s smaller fire departments pay for critically important training. Senators of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Missouri introduced the Railway Safety Act of 2023, which would require rail carriers to give advance notice to state emergency response officials before running trains carrying hazardous materials, mandate trains run with at least two-person crews, require better monitoring of railcar wheel bearings, and increase penalties for wrongdoing in the industry. Other updates include track removal plan, municipal water testing, sediment washing, and private well sampling.
On March 2, Union leaders have reported that rail workers clearing a crash site in East Palestine, Ohio are falling ill after a Norfolk Southern train derailed and leaked toxic chemicals last month. Twelve union leaders met with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Federal Railroad Administration administrator Amit Bose to discuss the incident, which threatened to explode and destroy a small Ohio town. The hazardous materials were drained from the train cars in a controlled burn, creating a massive cloud of toxic gas.
On March 4, Contaminated soil from the site of the Ohio train wreck is being sent to an incinerator with a history of clean air violations. Critics are concerned that the chemicals being removed from the ground will be redistributed across the region. This plan has been criticized by public health advocates, local residents, and a former EPA official. Some of the contaminants that residents and chemical experts fear are in the waste, like dioxins and PFAS, haven’t been tested for by the EPA, and they are difficult or impossible to incinerate.
On March 8, The Ohio EPA has launched a public dashboard to report surface water testing results from samples collected in area creeks and rivers affected by the train derailment. The dashboard shows 20 surface water sampling locations and test results for vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate, 2-ethylhexyl acrylate, benzene, and 2-butoxyethanol. Residents are advised to avoid contact with the contaminated water in the derailment area. Symptoms of headache, anxiety, coughing, fatigue/tiredness, irritation, pain, and burning of the skin continue to be the most common reported by residents in the East Palestine area who have completed an After Chemical Exposure (ACE) survey. Governor DeWine announced that Norfolk Southern has agreed to create a new first responder training center and expand its Operation Awareness & Response (OAR) program to improve and expand firefighter training.
On March 10, There is a large amount of contaminated soil that needs to be removed from East Palestine, and while approximately 2,980 tons have been removed, around 24,400 tons still remain. Governor DeWine and the Ohio EPA are concerned about the threats of future contamination and injury to public health until the soil is removed. The U.S. EPA is requiring pre-approval for all disposal and transport of contaminated soil and liquids, which is an additional step beyond all other safety management regulations required under RCRA and the U.S. Department of Transportation. Governor DeWine is calling on the U.S. EPA and Norfolk Southern to identify and authorize more sites to take this waste immediately.
Health Risks of the East Palestine, OH Chemical Spill
The East Palestine, OH chemical spill has left residents in the area fearing for their safety. The release of hazardous chemicals during the train derailment has raised serious health concerns about the short and long-term effects of exposure. The chemicals released include vinyl chloride, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate, isobutylene, and butyl acrylate, all of which can cause severe health problems when inhaled or ingested.
Vinyl Chloride: A Dangerous Carcinogen
Vinyl chloride is a highly toxic gas that can cause significant health risks when inhaled. It is known to cause dizziness, headaches, and liver damage, with long-term exposure leading to an increased risk of liver cancer. The gas is a byproduct of the production of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic and is used in the manufacturing of pipes, wire, and cable coatings, and car parts. Exposure to high levels of vinyl chloride can cause severe symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and disorientation. Even low-level exposure to this gas can cause cancer, leading to a high risk of lung, liver, and other cancers.
Exposure to Vinyl Chloride, Phosgene, and Dioxins can have serious long-term effects on the health of those who were exposed to them in the East Palestine OH chemical spill. Vinyl Chloride is associated with increased risk of liver cancer and other cancers, according to the National Cancer Institute. Additionally, exposure to Phosgene can cause vomiting and breathing trouble, and may lead to more serious health problems with longer exposure. Dioxins are persistent environmental pollutants that can last in the body for years and have been linked to various health issues, including cancer, developmental and reproductive problems, and immune system damage. It is crucial that anyone who was exposed to these chemicals seeks medical attention immediately and continues to monitor their health for potential long-term effects.
Ethylene Glycol Monobutyl Ether: A Respiratory Hazard
Ethylene glycol monobutyl ether is a clear, colorless liquid that is commonly used in cleaning products, paints, and coatings. Exposure to this chemical can cause respiratory problems, including coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Ingesting this liquid can cause abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. Long-term exposure can lead to more serious health issues, such as liver and kidney damage.
Ethylhexyl Acrylate: A Toxic Chemical
Ethylhexyl acrylate is a toxic chemical used in the production of adhesives, coatings, and plastics. Exposure to this chemical can cause headaches, nausea, and respiratory problems. Prolonged exposure to this chemical can lead to more serious health risks such as cancer.
Isobutylene: A Drowsy Gas
Isobutylene is a gas that can cause dizziness, drowsiness, and headaches. This gas is used in the production of rubber, fuel additives, and pharmaceuticals. Inhaling high levels of isobutylene can cause respiratory distress and nausea.
Butyl Acrylate: A Skin Irritant
Butyl acrylate is a clear, colorless liquid that is used in the production of adhesives, coatings, and plastics. This chemical is a skin irritant that can cause rashes and itching. Inhaling this chemical can cause respiratory problems and lung damage.
What to Do if You Have Been Exposed to Chemicals in the Ohio Train Derailment
It is essential to understand the dangers of exposure to these chemicals. The short-term effects of exposure can range from mild irritation to more severe symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and respiratory problems. Long-term exposure can lead to more serious health conditions, such as cancer, liver and kidney damage, and respiratory distress. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has has urged residents to seek medical attention if they experience any symptoms.
The East Palestine, OH chemical spill is a dangerous and potentially deadly event. The release of hazardous chemicals has put residents in the area at risk of serious health problems. Anyone who may have been exposed to these chemicals should take immediate precautions to protect themselves from further exposure.
Contact a Lawyer if You Have Been Affected by the Ohio Train Derailment and Chemical Spill
Exposure to these hazardous chemicals can cause serious health problems, and anyone who may have been exposed should take immediate precautions to protect themselves. Seeking legal help is one of the most important steps in these situations to ensure that your rights are protected.
If you or a loved one has been exposed to the chemicals released during the East Palestine, OH chemical spill, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. A lawyer who specializes in environmental and toxic tort cases can help you determine your legal options and guide you through the legal process.
If you have been affected by the Ohio train derailment and chemical spill, it is crucial to seek legal help. Contact us today for an Instant Case Evaluation. We can help you navigate the legal process and fight for your rights. By taking the necessary legal steps, you can ensure that you receive the compensation and justice you deserve.