Would better regulations and equipment mandates have prevented the Ohio rail disaster?


In the aftermath of the train derailment and hazardous chemical spill that happened on the evening of February 3 in East Palestine, Ohio, questions linger about the cause of the accident and officials continue to lay blame on one another. While residents worry about the safety of the air and water as they return to their homes, questions about regulations and infrastructure funding linger.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Federal Railroad Association are launching an investigation but it could take months — or even years — for officials to determine what caused the accident. Still, the NTSB has promised it will deliver a preliminary report of its investigation within two weeks. Surveillance footage seemed to capture video of the train’s wheel bearing overheating almost 20 miles away from where the train went off the tracks.

As Vox’s Umair Irfan explained: “Rail workers, government officials, and industry analysts have long warned that such disasters are an expected consequence of an industry that has aggressively cut costs, slashed its workforce, and resisted regulation for years.”

Since returning to East Palestine on February 8, residents have reported symptoms including nausea, headaches, and rashes. At a recent town hall, community members demanded answers to questions about the long-term health impacts of exposure to the chemicals. Norfolk Southern representatives weren’t in attendance for that meeting but CEO Alan Shaw did meet with town officials on Saturday. “We know we will be judged by our actions, and we are taking this accountability and responsibility very seriously,” Shaw said in a prepared statement.

This follows another statement from Norfolk Southern on Friday that they are “committed to coordinating the cleanup project and paying for its associated costs.”

Despite assurances from EPA Administrator Michael Regan and Governor Mike DeWine, it’s unclear if the air and water are safe because air quality monitors lack the sensitivity to detect low-level particles. Even more concerning, Delphine Farmer, a chemist at Colorado State University told Vox’s Benji Jones, is that scientists don’t really know what level of exposure is safe over the long term.

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Vox, 18-02-23
; https://www.vox.com/2023/2/18/23604604/ohio-rail-disaster-regulations-and-equipment-mandates-chemical-spill