BY KIM BELLARD
Like many of you, when I heard about the Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine (OH) on February 3, my heart went out to the people in that community. The train was carrying some hazardous materials, and no one was quite sure what was vented, especially when officials did a “controlled burn.” Still, though, I didn’t think much about it; although I live in Ohio, I’m about as far away as one can be within the state.
Yesterday my local water company shut off access to water from the Ohio River. “We are taking this preventative step to ensure the health, safety, and confidence of residents,” said Cincinnati Mayor Aftab. (Note: it reopened access today).
East Palestine isn’t all that close to the Ohio River, but whatever chemicals got into the local streams eventually started reaching it, and a “plume” of them slowly meandered the 400 miles downstream to here. Initially, the water company noted how small the particulate levels were – well below any danger – and that normal filtering processes would take care of them. Then they announced that they’d add a second filtering step, just in case. I guess people weren’t reassured, because they still closed the intakes, if only for a day.
I can only imagine how worried the people in East Palestine must be.
The scary thing is that this derailment was not a freak occurrence. There are about 1,000 derailments every year. Fortunately, most don’t involve either hazardous materials or result in deaths. If it’s any consolation – and it shouldn’t be – most hazardous material spills come from trucks, not trains (but, then again, trucks carry the most freight). The odds are against bad things happening. But, with 1.7 trillion ton-miles of freight carried by train every year, the odds eventually result in an East Palestine (and there were train derailments with hazardous materials in both Houston and Detroit since East Palestine’s).Continue reading…