Freight train derails by Ohio-Pennsylvania border


Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Residents of East Palestine, Ohio, and its surrounding areas are evacuating their homes after a freight train went off the tracks on Friday, February 3. 

Ten cars from a one-hundred car Norfolk Southern freight train derailed, and five of those cars were carrying vinyl chloride, a cancer-causing substance. 

According to a press release conducted by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, in order to prevent an explosion, Norfolk Southern conducted a controlled release of the vinyl chloride, which ended up releasing hazardous fumes into the air on Monday afternoon. 

“The fact that these toxic chemicals are being released into the atmosphere is extremely concerning because they can negatively affect the environment in many different ways,” said junior John Catney. 

In addition to Norfolk Southern’s discharge of vinyl chloride into the air, the train accident led to chemicals leaking into the Ohio River, a major water source, not only for the town, but for five million people living along the river’s basin. 

While the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) and officials from West Virginia towns such as Stubenville and Toronto did not find any “red flags” in their testing of the river water, city officials from Weirton, West Virginia, switched the residents’ water supply to an alternate source as a precautionary measure. 

“There were chemicals that went into the Ohio River, and immediately the people of Weirton acted and acted promptly and everything to basically shut down and transfer over to an alternate supply source for their water,” said West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice at a press briefing.

Due to Norfolk Southern’s handling of the train derailment, an East Palestine business owner and multiple residents filed a federal class action lawsuit against the transportation company for their negligence. 

According to the filing, a resident claims that they “suffered injuries as a direct and proximate result of his exposure to the toxic chemicals and fumes emanating from the accident site.” 

Additionally, the business owner claims that they “suffered damages” as a result of closing their shop amid the evacuation. The lawsuit is seeking at least five million dollars for the people affected by the train derailment. 

“If I were in their position, I would have filed a lawsuit as well,” said senior Phoebe Gleeson. “The environment was seriously impacted by the chemical release, and in turn, the residents of East Palestine and the surrounding areas have and may develop health issues.”