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NTSB: Norfolk Southern decision to burn chemicals in East Palestine unnecessary

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A decision by Norfolk Southern to release and burn toxic chemicals from five derailed train cars after the 2023 East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment may have been unnecessary, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said Tuesday, June 25. In its final meeting on the incident, NTSB investigators attributed the decision to a miscommunication of risk by the railway and its contractors.

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After the train derailed in February of 2023, a fire erupted and heated up five tank cars that contained vinyl chloride, The NTSB stated that railroad management and contractors ignored the dropping temperature of one tank car of concern, which indicated a reduced threat of explosion, and still decided to release toxic chemicals into the air.

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In addition, investigators found that firefighters and emergency crews stayed on the scene of the crash far too long because Norfolk Southern failed to disclose the toxic chemicals on board the train until an hour after they arrived. An NTSB investigator said,

“This resulted in greater exposure of emergency responders and to the public to post-derailment hazards.” NTSB investigator Troy Lloyd said.

As result of the decision to burn off the chemicals, a plume of smoke rose from the burn site in East Palestine, which led to several lawsuits from residents. Some residents reported illnesses as a result of the pollutants in the air.

A recent report also revealed that the impact of toxins released into the air went farther than the community of East Palestine. According to the report, researchers found toxins in the soil and air in as 16 states.

Meanwhile, the rail disaster is already leading to industry-wide changes. The Department of Transportation announced a new rule on Monday, June 24, that requires railroad companies to alert local emergency agencies about all the hazardous materials being carried through their areas.

The NTSB’s final report with findings and recommendations is expected in several weeks.

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[LAUREN TAYLOR]

NEW REVELATIONS RELATED TO LAST YEAR’S TOXIC TRAIN DERAILMENT IN EAST PALESTINE. 

THE N-T-S-B SHARING THEIR FINDINGS THAT THE DECISION BY NORFOLK SOUTHERN TO RELEASE AND BURN TOXIC CHEMICALS FROM FIVE DERAILED TRAIN CARS MAY HAVE BEEN THE WRONG ONE.

INVESTIGATORS SAY THE BURN OFF WAS UNNECESSARY AND ONLY HAPPENED DUE TO “MISINTERPRETATION OF RISK” BY THE RAILWAY AND CONTRACTORS. 

THE INFORMATION COMING DURING THE BOARD’S FINAL MEETING ON THE DERAILMENT ON TUESDAY. 

AFTER THE TRAIN DERAILED IN FEBRUARY OF 2023, A FIRE ERUPTED– HEATING UP FIVE TANK CARS CONTAINING TOXIC VINYL CHLORIDE. 

THE NTSB SAID THE RAILROAD AND CONTRACTORS IGNORED THE FACT THE TEMPERATURE OF THE CARS WAS DROPPING– AN INDICATION THE THREAT OF AN EXPLOSION HAD FALLEN.

THEY THEN WENT AHEAD WITH THE DECISION TO RELEASE THE CHEMICALS.

INVESTIGATORS ALSO FOUND FIREFIGHTERS AND EMERGENCY CREWS STAYED ON THE SCENE TOO LONG.

THE REASON: NORFOLK SOUTHERN FAILED TO SHARE TIME-SENSITIVE INFORMATION -THAT TOXIC CHEMICALS WERE ON THE TRAIN– UNTIL AN HOUR AFTER FIRST RESPONDERS ARRIVED.

THE NTSB SAID, “THIS RESULTED IN GREATER EXPOSURE OF EMERGENCY RESPONDERS AND TO THE PUBLIC TO POST-DERAILMENT HAZARDS.”

A PLUME OF SMOKE ROSE FROM THE BURN SITE– WHICH LED TO A BEVY OF LAWSUITS FROM THOSE LIVING NEARBY WHO REPORTED ILLNESSES AS A RESULT OF THE TOXIC FUMES. 

A RECENT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT REPORT SHOWS THOSE CHEMICALS HAVE NOW BEEN DETECTED IN 16 STATES. 

WHILE THIS WEEK’S MEETING WAS THE LAST FOR THE N-T-S-B – THE RAIL DISASTER HAS ALREADY LED TO INDUSTRY-WIDE CHANGES.

MONDAY, THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION ANNOUNCED A NEW RULE REQUIRING RAILROADS TO ALERT LOCAL EMERGENCY AGENCIES ABOUT ALL HAZARDOUS MATERIALS BEING CARRIED THROUGH THEIR AREAS. 

THE NTSB’S FINAL REPORT IS EXPECTED IN SEVERAL WEEKS– WITH FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS.

FOR MORE UPDATES TO THE EAST PALESTINE DERAILMENT AND MORE– DOWNLOAD THE STRAIGHT ARROW NEWS APP– AND SIGN UP FOR NEWS UPDATES.