Train containing toxic chemicals derailed in East Palestine

The major chemical spill as a result of the train derailment is one of about a half dozen since December 2021



Smoke from the derailment in February could be seen across neighborhoods in East Palestine

Jacob Berr, News Writer

The derailment of a train containing toxic chemicals caused an environmental disaster in East Palestine Ohio on February 3. 

The derailed train was Norfolk Southern train 32N. The train consisted of 141 loaded cars and nine empty cars, a length that is arguably not safe. 20 cars were carrying toxic materials such as vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate, 2 Ethylhexyl acrylate, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, isobutylene, combustible liquids and benzene residue.

Chemicals from the train derailment were found in the local waterways Eslie Run, Sulfur Run, North Fork Little Creek, Beaver Creek and the Ohio River. According to the director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Mary Mertz, the chemical spill has killed an estimated 43,000 animals as of Feb 23.

On the scene of the spill, there were miscommunications and police officers were not given much guidance or proper equipment when dealing with the situation. 

“We were never given the heads-up about what was on the train, there was a lack of communication, and were never told to put on protective hazmat gear, so I didn’t wear anything.” an anonymous police officer who was at the derailment said to The Guardian. “The PPE [personal protective equipment] we have dates back to 2010 anyway, so what good was that.”

Norfolk Southern was not operating the train at a safe temperature, so the derailment has highlighted lackluster safety regulations for railroads.

“Those temperature thresholds are not set by regulation,”The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) chair Jennifer Homendy said. “They are not set by guidance. They vary by railroad and it’s their decision,”

The incident happened years after the Department of Transportation repealed safety regulations for trains carrying hazardous materials. Many advocates have argued that more safety regulations could have prevented the train derailment.

The East Palestine Train Derailment had lasting environmental effects, and the lack of safety regulations allowed Norfolk Southern to run their trains at an unsafe temperature. The toxic chemicals spilled during the derailment led to an environmental disaster and caused the death of thousands of marine species. 

The Washington Post reported on March 31 that the Department of Justice filed a major civil lawsuit against Norfolk Sourthern and is demanding that the company be “held accountable” for its destruction in East Palestine. According to the Post, the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Railroad Administration have also “launched reviews of the railway’s safety record.” Norfolk Southern lobbied against regulations in the years prior to the accident.