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  • Leopold Huber

Chemical Spill in Ohio Leads to Disaster


East Palestine was once a small, quiet town in eastern Ohio, near the Philadelphia border, with around 4.700 residents. But on the third of February 2023 a cargo train belonging to the Norfolk Southern Railway Company derailed on the town's eastern side.

Fifty train cars were involved in the crash, 11 of which were loaded with around 100 gallons (about 378.54 L) of highly dangerous chemicals. The most dangerous and prevalent of these is vinyl chloride, which is extremely flammable and poisonous. Due to the crash a fire started onboard the train. So, to prevent an explosion, Norfolk Southern started a controlled burn of the chemicals which released gases into the air. The exact health and environmental effects are still being evaluated and recorded.

On the fifth of February, the Ohioan Governor ordered an evacuation of the 5.000 people living within one mile of the accident and called in the Ohio National Guard to help local authorities.

Five days after the derailment, the residents of the town were allowed back into town and told that their water supply had not been contaminated. Nevertheless, days later residents reported nausea and rashes. In response, the Environmental Protection Agency started screening the town for pollutants, and Ohio opened a health clinic.

Even though Norfolk Southern and the Governor keep insisting that the contamination is contained and controlled, grim videos of the situation have been publicized. These include polluted rivers filled with dead fish or drinking water sizzling when touched, but the validity of these is not known.

It is estimated that 43.000 animals, mostly aquatic species, have died so far from the spill and the number is constantly increasing. It only includes animals that died 5 miles (8 kilometers) away from the crash site.

The cause of the crash is thought to be an overheated axel, but the exact details are so far unknown. It might be that cost-cutting measures by Norfolk South Railways and the withdrawal of safety guidelines by the American government are to blame. Federal Investigators said that the derailment was 100% preventable.

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