Sheriffs warn of toxic fumes after train wreck in Ohio

A burgeoning tangle of dozens of derailed freight cars, some carrying hazardous materials, prompted an evacuation order in Ohio near the Pennsylvania state line as environmental authorities remain vigilant. which watches the air quality monitors.

About 50 cars derailed in East Palestine at about 9 pm on Friday while a train was carrying various products from Madison, Illinois, to Conway, Pennsylvania, rail operator. Norfolk South said. No injuries to the crew, residents or first responders were reported.

East Palestine officials said Sunday that emergency responders were monitoring but keeping their distance from the fire, saying repair efforts could not begin while the cars were smoking. The evacuation covers a one-mile (1.6-kilometer) radius, officials said.

Mayor Trent Conaway, who declared a state of emergency in the village, said one person was arrested for walking around the barricades until the night crash. He warned that more arrests would follow if people did not stay away.

“I don’t know why anyone would want to go there; you’re breathing in toxic fumes when you’re that close,” he said, stressing that air quality monitors far from the fire show no levels of concern and the city’s water supply is safe because it’s fed by groundwater that doesn’t will be affected by some materials that have gone. to the streams. Environmental protection agency crews work to remove pollutants from streams and monitor water quality.

Fire chief Keith Drrabick said it was very important to avoid the area “because a train carrying hazardous material had broken down in town and was on fire. It doesn’t get simpler than that. “

Sheriffs went door-to-door Sunday to count remaining residents and urge people inside the evacuation area to leave. “We ask residents to please evacuate and cooperate,” officials said in a statement. Schools and village offices will be closed Monday and officials will determine that afternoon if the school closure will continue. Businesses inside the evacuation zone will not be allowed to open Monday, officials said.

Norfolk Southern said 20 of its more than 100 vehicles were classified as carrying hazardous materials – defined as cargo that could pose any type of hazard “including flammable, combustible, or environmental hazards.” Some vehicles carry vinyl chloride, and at least one “flows out” its contents through a pressure release device.

Officials said Sunday afternoon that the vehicles involved were also carrying flammable liquids, butyl acrylate and residual benzene from previous shipments as well as non-hazardous materials such as wheat, plastic pellets, malt liquors and lube. oil.

“Brief exposure to low levels of substances associated with derailment does not pose a long-term health risk to residents,” says a village “Frequently Asked Questions” post. Facebook page. “Vinyl chloride and benzene can cause cancer in people exposed at work in high concentrations for many years; however, there is no indication that any possible exposure occurring after derailment increases the risk of cancer or even any other long-term health effects on community members.”

The National Transportation Safety Board said that only 10 vehicles carrying hazardous materials derailed and five of them were carrying vinyl chloride, not 14 as previously reported. And officials reiterated Saturday that they have not confirmed releases of vinyl chloride other than pressure release devices operating as designed.

Vinyl chloride, which is used to make the polyvinyl chloride hard plastic resin in a variety of plastic products, is associated with an increased risk of liver cancer and other cancers, according to the federal government’s National Cancer Institute. Norfolk Southern must provide a fact sheet listing all chemicals involved.

The evacuation order covers the homes of 1,500 to 2,000 of the town’s 4,800 to 4,900 residents, but officials said it was unknown how many were actually affected. About eight residents remained in an emergency shelter. Norfolk Southern opened a village help center to get information from affected residents; Village officials said 75 people came to the center on Saturday and about 100 were there on Sunday morning.

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