What Was Spilled in the Ohio Train Derailment?

What Was Spilled in the Ohio Train Derailment?

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What Was Spilled in the Ohio Train Derailment?

Life for residents in and around East Palestine will likely never be the same after the derailment of a Norfolk Southern freight train carrying a cargo of hazardous materials. They are dealing with possible serious health problems in the future, plummeting property values, and uncertainty after a controlled release and burn-off of toxic chemicals released pollutants into the air, soil, and water. While residents were evacuated before the burn, upon return, they noticed the distinct smell of chemicals and almost immediately started to feel ill and experience symptoms of toxic chemical exposure.

Since then, Morgan and Morgan have taken up the call to represent residents of East Palestine in a class action Ohio train lawsuit. While residents' lives may never be the same, we are dedicated to ensuring they have access to medical testing and receive meaningful compensation for their losses and emotional distress. But first, to understand how serious the toxic chemical spill is, we have to understand what led up to the accident, what was spilled in the Ohio train derailment, and what happened afterward.

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  • Why Did the Norfolk Southern Train Derail in East Palestine, Ohio?

    The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has yet to confirm a conclusion as to why the train derailed. Still, evidence suggests it started with an overheated wheel bearing in the 23rd car. The train's crew was alerted to the danger via a safety monitoring system, but by the time they were able to slow down and finally stop the train, 38 cars had derailed. Eleven of those cars carried toxic chemicals. When the crew stepped off the train to assess the damage, they saw fire and smoke and quickly alerted authorities.

    The train had 149 cars in total and was 9,000 feet long. Devices are installed along the railroad lines to detect and report issues as trains pass along the tracks. One device recorded increasing temperatures about 30 miles east of East Palestine. The detector that triggered the alarm was located 19 miles east of the city, recording temperatures of 253 degrees Fahrenheit. While the engineer reacted immediately to the alarm, the wheel bearing failed before the train could come to a halt.
    Still, there is no evidence that the crew did anything incorrectly. As with many disasters of this proportion, federal regulators are looking at making changes to lessen the likelihood of a similar accident in the future.

  • Why Did Norfolk Southern Release and Burn Off Chemicals?

    While there were no reported deaths or injuries related to the derailment, the real danger crept in from the decision to release and burn off dangerous chemicals instead of finding less risky methods of containing and cleaning up after the wreckage. While several train cars caught fire and burned for days, one tanker carrying vinyl chloride had a malfunctioning pressure valve that caused concern for the likelihood of an uncontrolled explosion. Furthermore, the placards that identified cars carrying toxic chemicals had melted, making it impossible to identify which cars carried hazardous materials. Norfolk Southern officials devised the idea to perform a controlled release and burn of chemicals to avert an explosion. In the face of imminent threat, government entities from Ohio and Pennsylvania agreed. Still, afterward, people questioned if this was the right choice considering the aftermath. Specifically, Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro pointed out that Norfolk Southern failed to implement "Unified Command," causing confusion between Norfolk Southern personnel and state and local response agencies.

    He also claims Norfolk Southern gave incorrect information and contradictory modeling concerning the effects of the controlled release and burn, making it difficult to decide which route to go. Additionally, Norfolk Southern failed to inform state and local response agencies initially of their intent to release and burn five cars that carried vinyl chloride instead of just the one that Norfolk Southern personnel identified as likely to explode. Finally, he accused Norfolk Southern of not considering or sharing ideas for an alternate method of handling the spill, which may have kept the railroad inoperable for longer but could have had a considerably less harmful impact on the environment, the area's inhabitants, and first responders.
    While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ordered Norfolk Southern to be responsible for all clean-up and associated costs, that doesn't adequately address the physical, emotional, and financial toll the wreck has had on East Palestine residents. However, Morgan and Morgan are championing the cause of the innocent citizens affected by this massive environmental disaster by leading an Ohio train lawsuit. 

  • How Dangerous Is Vinyl Chloride?

    Vinyl chloride is a highly toxic chemical, which is why an evacuation was ordered. It is primarily used in the manufacturing of plastics. However, it is a known carcinogen linked to liver, brain, lung, and some blood cancers. Most of what we know about the long-term effects comes from individuals who have been exposed over long periods of time. We don't know the long-term effects of a massive burst of exposure, like what happened in East Palestine. Nor do we know how the decision to burn the chemical (and others) might affect large swaths of people living around the crash area and downwind.

    When vinyl chloride is burned, it releases phosgene gas, hydrogen chloride, and dioxins into the air, all of which are highly poisonous to humans and animals. Phosgene gas, in particular, was used heavily during World War I during trench warfare. It is now outlawed by the Chemical Weapons Convention treaty. Exposure to phosgene gas is linked to many chronic health problems, like asthma, pulmonary edema, reproductive and developmental issues, kidney and liver failure, heart failure, and death.
    Hydrogen chloride exposure is linked to Reactive Airways Dysfunction Syndrome, respiratory problems, and eye and skin irritation. There is a fair amount of worry that the decision to burn the tankers holding vinyl chloride could result in the formation of dioxins. The problem with dioxins is that they are persistent pollutants that remain in the environment and the human body for years which may result in dangerous long-term health effects. Experts have said one of the biggest problems with burning vinyl chloride at the crash site is that they don't know what other chemical compounds may have interacted with each other. That means that while environmental tests were performed to measure the levels of phosgene gas and other pollutants, they don't understand the entire profile of chemicals that resulted from the burn. Therefore, they don't exactly know what they're testing for and what levels are safe. 

  • Are These Chemicals Now in the Water?

    While government environmental and health officials have been testing for contaminants in the air and water in and around East Palestine and are not finding dangerous levels, that doesn't explain why the residents continue to experience well-documented symptoms of chemical exposure. People have complained of rashes, coughs, headaches, and other signs of chemical poisoning. Weeks after the wreck, people can still smell the tell-tale odor of burning plastic, glue, and nail polish remover.
    Contaminants did make it into nearby waterways and killed off thousands of local fish and water life, but officials dammed the rivers to contain the contamination. However, vinyl chloride may have found its way into the soil, where it could lurk for years to come, potentially poisoning wells. Environmental scientists keep saying there is cause for concern. At the same time, government officials play down these concerns, making it hard for residents to know who to trust. Now, residents are not trusting the test results of the government and Norfolk Southern personnel. Instead, many are opting to have independent testing performed, which is their right. Still, it's also expensive and difficult to book because of the high demand.

    Further mistrust was sown when a Pennsylvania grocery store chain pulled Ohio-sourced water bottles from their shelves. The water used in the product was drawn from a spring located about 25 miles from the derailment site. The chemicals that may have leached into the ground could also potentially pollute other waterways that zigzag across Ohio and Pennsylvania. While initial testing can reveal if contaminants are present, ongoing testing is vital to ensure leaching of chemicals doesn't end up contaminating water in the future.

    Another issue that concerns environmental scientists is that it's not understood how these elements may interact with other chemicals present in the water. While the dangerous chemicals can be diluted in large waterways, they may accumulate to unacceptable levels in smaller tributaries.

  • What Should I Do if I Have Symptoms of Dangerous Chemical Exposure?

    If you suspect any symptoms you're experiencing could be related to exposure to the dangerous chemicals burned in East Palestine, seek medical care immediately. It's possible that your medical expenses could be taken care of through the Ohio train lawsuit Morgan and Morgan Law Firm are leading. Contact us for more information.

  • Am I Eligible to Join the Ohio Train Lawsuit?

    Currently, Morgan and Morgan are involved in multiple lawsuits against Norfolk Southern for their negligent actions regarding the East Palestine derailment in early February of this year. The railroad could have foreseen the likelihood of such an accident occurring. Still, instead of investing more in safety, they've massively slashed their workforce and reduced the number of yards where inspections are conducted to pay more to their shareholders. In addition, Norfolk Southern's response to the derailment likely made matters worse. Instead of taking a hard look at the environmental and human impact of their solution to burn the chemicals, they took the shortest, easiest, and cheapest route so they could get the railroad up and running again.

    Norfolk Southern has tried and failed to appear as if they care about the residents of East Palestine. Initially, they offered those affected $1000 for the inconvenience. However, an "inconvenience" is car trouble on the highway, not being forced to leave your home, losing out on work, being afraid to breathe the air and drink the water, and fearing health repercussions. Furthermore, suppose you own a motel, restaurant, or other business in East Palestine. In that case, the likelihood of generating future income is substantially hindered, considering the town is now famous for being the site of a hazardous chemical spill. Morgan and Morgan intend to make them pay through Ohio train lawsuits.

    To learn if you're eligible to join the Ohio train lawsuit, we recommend you contact us for a free case evaluation. If your circumstances are similar to our other East Palestine clients, we can add you to the class action we're leading. However, we know that not every case is one size fits all. If your situation differs from others, you may have the option to file an independent lawsuit.

    Still, it's best to understand that these types of legal actions can take years to resolve successfully, but we're in it for the long haul. There is no financial risk on your behalf because we don't collect payment unless you do.

     You can be assured that we are the right law firm to win you compensation and medical monitoring. Morgan and Morgan have substantial experience with lawsuits involving toxic environmental accidents caused by giant corporations. We've fought legal fights against colossal utility and oil companies and won significant compensation for our clients who suffered from their negligence. Don't hesitate to reach out today. We have lawyers waiting to help you any time of the day or night.

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