Ohio Train Derailment

A train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed in East Palestine, Ohio.


Image retrieved from National Transportation Safety Board

   On February 3rd, 2023, a train owned and operated by the Norfolk Southern Corporation derailed in the town of East Palestine, Ohio. No one was hurt at the time of the accident.


   The train had been carrying the hazardous chemical vinyl chloride, which is primarily used to make Polyvinyl chloride. PVC is then often made into pipes. Initial reports stated that the derailment was caused by an overheated wheel bearing, which has since been confirmed. While train operators were alerted to the critical failure, the warning came too late, and the part failed before the train was able to come to a complete stop.


    The failure of the wheel bearing and the poor response of the alert system has left many to question if Norfolk Southern’s safety regulations are enough. 


    “Roller bearings fail. But it’s absolutely critical for problems to be identified and addressed early so these aren’t run until failure,” said NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy at a press conference.


   It should also be noted that this accident comes just months after Congress vetoed a bill that would have required companies to provide seven sick days a year to rail workers. The following month, Senators passed another bill that made unions to accept a tentative agreement reached earlier last year between railroad managers and their workers and make an imminent strike illegal — without making any changes.


    Since the catastrophe, numerous government agencies have reported that it is safe for residents to be in the area. However, many have reported health problems such as migraines, nausea, and dizziness. There have also been reports of dead plants and animals.


   Many are worried that accidents like this will become more commonplace, and not only because of the immediate danger that train accidents pose but because of the potential for continued environmental devastation when we are already dealing with massive climate change.