A train carrying dozens of cars of hazardous chemicals was derailed on Feb. 3 in East Palestine, Ohio causing a massive fire. After an evacuation order, officials cleared residents to return home last week. But people understandably have questions.
For one, how did this happen?
About 50 cars derailed in the crash because of a mechanical issue with a rail car, according to federal investigators. To prevent a chemical explosion, Norfolk-Southern, who operates the freight line, released the chemicals into the air.
Prior to the release, government officials told residents within a one mile radius to evacuate their homes, which impacted over 2,000 people.
Rail unions have called attention to the ongoing problems with industry, which they say is “focused on timing and rushing,” instead of safety.
As the AP reported, “major freight railroads have eliminated roughly one-third of their workers over the past six years.” And instead of rail inspectors having about 2 minutes to inspect a car, they only get about 30-45 seconds.
Officials have said the water and air are now safe based on expert reviews, and residents were cleared to return home. But concerns remain.
Some of the chemicals that were released have the potential to seep into the ground, and some residents are planning independent water and air tests.
Officials further away in Cincinnati are also monitoring the water quality.