AP

Crews release toxic chemicals from derailed tankers in Ohio

Feb 6, 2023, 7:10 AM | Updated: Feb 8, 2023, 1:53 pm

This photo taken with a drone shows portions of a Norfolk Southern freight train that derailed Frid...

This photo taken with a drone shows portions of a Norfolk Southern freight train that derailed Friday night in East Palestine, Ohio are still on fire at mid-day Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (AP) — Crews released toxic chemicals into the air from five derailed tanker cars that were in danger of exploding Monday and began burning it after warning residents near the Ohio-Pennsylvania state line to leave immediately or face the possibility of death.

Flames and black smoke billowed high into the sky from the derailment site late in the afternoon, about an hour after authorities said the controlled release would begin.

The slow release of vinyl chloride from five rail cars into a trough that was then ignited created a large plume above the village of East Palestine but authorities said they were closely monitoring the air quality.

“Thus far, no concerning readings have been detected,” Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro said at a brief evening news conference about three hours after the venting and burning procedure began.

However, he urged Pennsylvania residents within a 2-mile (3.2 kilometer) radius of the derailment site to shelter in place and keep their doors and windows closed through the evening as a precaution in case of wind shifts.

Shapiro also said he had spoken to President Joe Biden, who had offered “the full support of the federal government” to Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine earlier ordered evacuations in the area of the derailment that has been smoldering since Friday night. Authorities believed most, if not all, residents in the danger zone had left but they were knocking on doors one more time before releasing the vinyl chloride inside the cars, he said.

“You need to leave, you just need to leave. This is a matter of life and death,” DeWine said at news conference.

Officials warned the controlled burn would send phosgene and hydrogen chloride into the air. Phosgene is a highly toxic gas that can cause vomiting and breathing trouble and was used as a weapon in World War I.

Scott Deutsch of Norfolk Southern Railway earlier said doing this during the daytime would allow the fumes to disperse more quickly and prevent the rail cars from exploding and sending shrapnel and other debris from flying through the neighborhood.

“We can’t control where that goes,” he said.

The process involves using a small charge to blow a hole in the cars, allowing the material to go into a trench and burning it off before it’s released in the air, he said. The crews handling the controlled release have done this safely before, Deutsch said.

About three hours into the procedure, Norfolk Southern Railway issued a statement saying that experts and first responders had breached the rail cars, chemicals were burning off and the cars were expected to drain for several more hours.

The site is very close to the state line, and the evacuation area extends into a sparsely populated area of Pennsylvania. About half of the 4,800 residents in East Palestine had been warned to leave over the weekend before officials decided on Monday to use the controlled release.

Shapiro said the evacuation zone includes about 20 Pennsylvania residences. Pennsylvania State Police went door-to-door to assist the last remaining residents and ensure they leave.

Shapiro later said he’d been told that residents with a mile (1.6 kilometers) of the controlled burn had left.

Forced evacuations began Sunday night in East Palestine after authorities became alarmed that the rail cars could explode after a “drastic temperature change” was observed in a rail car.

Residents were packing overnight bags, loading their pets into cars and searching for hotel rooms Monday morning. Police in the village moved out of their communication center as the threat of an explosion increased.

Police cars, snow plows and military vehicles from the Ohio National Guard blocked streets leading into the area.

About 50 cars, including 10 carrying hazardous materials, derailed in a fiery crash Friday night, according to rail operator Norfolk Southern and the National Transportation Safety Board. No injuries to crew, residents or first responders were reported.

Five were transporting vinyl chloride, which is used to make the polyvinyl chloride hard plastic resin in plastic products and is associated with increased risk of liver cancer and other cancers, according to the federal government’s National Cancer Institute

Federal investigators say the cause of the derailment was a mechanical issue with a rail car axle.

The three-member train crew received an alert about the mechanical defect “shortly before the derailment,” Michael Graham, a board member of the NTSB, said Sunday. Investigators identified the exact “point of derailment,” but the board was still working to determine which rail car experienced the axle issue, he said.

Mayor Trent Conaway, who declared a state of emergency in the village, said one person was arrested for going around barricades right up to the crash. He warned people to stay away and said they’d risk arrest.

“I don’t know why anybody would want to be up there; you’re breathing toxic fumes if you’re that close,” he said.

___

Seewer reported from Toledo, Ohio. Associated Press journalists Kantele Franko, Gene Puskar and Brooke Schultz in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, contributed. Schultz is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Colorado River settlement center of new Navajo Nation push...

Associated Press

Tribes say their future is at stake as they push for Congress to consider Colorado River settlement

Navajo officials are celebrating the signing of legislation outlining a proposed Colorado River settlement that would ensure water rights.

3 days ago

Arizona doctors California abortions...

Associated Press

Arizona doctors can come to California to perform abortions under new law signed by Gov. Newsom

Arizona doctors can temporarily come to California to perform abortions for their patients under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

4 days ago

Father convicted of first-degree murder in northern Arizona...

Associated Press

Arizona man convicted of first-degree murder in starvation death of 6-year-old son

A northern Arizona father was convicted of first-degree murder Thursday in the 2020 starvation death of his 6-year-old son.

4 days ago

Former President Donald Trump sits in a courtroom next to his lawyer Todd Blanche before the start ...

Associated Press

Trump hush money trial enters new phase after defense rests without testimony from former president

Donald Trump's hush money trial is now closer to the moment when the jury will begin deciding the former president's fate.

6 days ago

UoA student convicted of first-degree murder after killing professor...

Associated Press

Former Arizona grad student convicted of first-degree murder in 2022 shooting of professor

A former University of Arizona grad student was convicted of first-degree murder after fatally shooting a professor on campus two years ago.

6 days ago

Rudy Giuliani bankruptcy filing defamation lawsuit...

Associated Press

Ex-NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Arizona’s Kelli Ward plead not guilty in fake elector case

Giuliani appeared remotely for the arraignment that was held in a Phoenix courtroom. His trial will take place in October.

7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Sanderson Ford

3 new rides for 3 new road trips in Arizona

It's time for the Sanderson Ford Memorial Day sale with the Mighty Fine 69 Anniversary, as Sanderson Ford turned 69 years old in May.

...

COLLINS COMFORT MASTERS

Here are 5 things Arizona residents need to know about their HVAC system

It's warming back up in the Valley, which means it's time to think about your air conditioning system's preparedness for summer.

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

Crews release toxic chemicals from derailed tankers in Ohio