Freight train derails, spills chemicals in New Jersey

Raquel Erhard – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

Paulsboro, NJ, United States (4E) – A freight train derailment that caused a toxic spill Friday morning in Paulsboro, New Jersey sent more than 30 people to a hospital while residents had to stay inside their homes for hours.

Authorities said a Conrail freight train derailed over Mantua Creek around 7 a.m. Three cars were knocked over into the creek and one was damaged, resulting to a leak of a chemical called vinyl chloride.

Gloucester Office of Emergency Management said emergency and hazardous material workers responded and limited evacuations were ordered. A shelter in place was activated for residents and a lockdown was issued in schools along Paulsboro, East Greenwich, and West Deptford.

Rescue units arrived to the scene after several people experienced respiratory problems, more than 30 people were treated at the Underwood Memorial Hospital in Woodbury.

Officials revealed that air quality had improved around 11 a.m. but they cautioned that another significant threat might follow when Conrail tries to lift the cars out of the water.

According to officials, the bridge buckled as the train was traveling over it. The bridge already collapsed in 2009 and had to be rebuilt.

Authorities appealed to the community to be careful and to be alert to public announcements throughout the day.

Vinyl chloride, which evaporates quickly, is a colorless flammable gas used to make polyvinyl chloride pipes.

Gloucester County Freeholder Director Robert Damminger said in a statement that acute exposure of the chemical through inhalation can cause dizziness, drowsiness, headaches, and even a loss of consciousness. It is reported to be slightly irritating to the eyes and respiratory tract.

Anyone suffering any symptoms due to exposure is urged to seek medical treatment.

The National Transportation Safety Board is now investigating the incident.

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