A plume of the dangerous chemical vinyl chloride was released into the air following the train derailment this morning. One of the cars was breached during the apparent bridge collapse into the Mantua Creek. The chemical escaped and vaporized into the air, and the remainder self-refrigerated into a frozen state, sending scores of people went to the local hospital to be treated for respiratory issues. As of this afternoon, there were no air or water quality issues.
Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-3) offered this statement to the press: “The circumstance are stable, the product that escaped from the tank is what escaped, the remaining product is in a solid form in the tank and through a procedure that’s very controlled will sort of be flushed. That is not happening yet. At that time steps will be taken to minimize any escape of gas.”
This same bridge, owned by Conrail, had a derailment in 2009. Conrail repaired it in 2010, but recently, neighbors have complained of hearing loud banging noises.
Said Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), “obviously there’s something wrong with the bridge. as Tom Butts says it’s a swing bridge, there’s not many of them left here and the problem with the rail system down here it desperately needs to be upgraded and it comes down to resources to be upgrade them.”
Conrail spokesperson John Enright read a statement at a press conference today, but would not take any questions.
“All aspects of the incident, including the track bridge, rail cars and locomotives are part of the investigation. We’ll be working very closely with federal investigators to determine the cause,” he stated.
One local resident and business owner is still concerned about the chemical release and says it’s already affected the town’s economy.
Doug Ricotta of Paulsboro said the incident hurts the “little guy” like him because everything gets shut down. “My wife has a hair salon down the street. She had 12 appointments today and they all canceled because they all panicked,” he said. “They don’t want to come outside, they don’t want to breathe the air, they don’t want to drink the water. We need answers, we need to know exactly what’s going on.”
The national transportation safety board is on-site and the investigation is underway. They are looking at a possibility of bringing a crane from New York City to remove the damaged cars. Officials say during the removal process, they will be letting residents know what precautions to take.
“I think, at the very least, we will tell people in the immediate to shelter in place, now whether we’ll suggest they leave their homes at that point, I don’t know that’s the case yet. I don’t know that’s warranted but, at the very least, we’ll say shelter in place which is a very effective way to deal with this,” said Burzichelli.