NTSB Releases Preliminary Report on East Palestine Train Derailment, Chemical Spill
On Feb. 3, a Norfolk Southern freight train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, sending 38 railcars off the tracks. Five of the cars were carrying 115,580 gallons of vinyl chloride, a highly toxic and flammable chemical. The derailment caused a massive chemical spill and posed a risk of explosion.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released its preliminary report, providing insight into the events leading up to the derailment. According to the report, the crew of the train became aware of an overheated wheel bearing just moments before the wreck and attempted to stop the train. Monitoring equipment alerted the crew to the bearing, which was 253 degrees Fahrenheit above ambient temperature.
The crew applied brakes to slow and stop the train, and then observed fire and smoke. With dispatcher authorization, they applied handbrakes to the two railcars at the head of the train, uncoupled the head-end locomotives, and moved the locomotives about a mile away from the uncoupled railcars. Responders arrived at the site and began response efforts.
The NTSB report also noted that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) conducted a survey of the waterways for dead aquatic species, with the help of the environmental consulting firm, EnviroScience. They established four collection stations and gathered data on Feb. 6 and 7, estimating approximately 38,220 minnows and around 5,500 other species were killed in the five-mile span of the impact area, which runs from the derailment site to Sulphur Run, Leslie Run, Bull Creek and North Fork Little Beaver Creek.
The NTSB will now focus its investigation on the wheelset and bearing; tank car design and derailment damage; a review of the accident response, including the venting and burning of the vinyl chloride; railcar design and maintenance procedures and practices; the train operator’s use of wayside defect detectors; and the company’s railcar inspection practices.
Ohio residents have reported experiencing headaches, dizziness, nausea and bloody noses following the train crash, health issues they say they did not have prior to the crash. However, government agencies have repeatedly stated that tests have shown that the municipal water supply and air quality are safe. ODNR has also reported that they have not seen any signs of fish in distress and that a majority of the dead fish have been removed from the waterways.
0. “NTSB releases preliminary report on East Palestine train derailment” WTAE Pittsburgh, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.wtae.com/article/ntsb-preliminary-report-east-palestine-train-derailment/43041391
1. “A first report on the Ohio toxic train wreck was released. Here's what it found — and what investigators are still looking into” CNN, 24 Feb. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/02/24/us/ohio-train-derailment-east-palestine-friday/index.html
2. “Norfolk Southern CEO fields questions from East Palestine residents” The Columbus Dispatch, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.dispatch.com/story/news/local/2023/02/22/norfolk-southern-ceo-alan-shaw-fields-questions-from-east-palestine-residents-in-cnn-town-hall/69933974007/
3. “Train-Car Wheel Bearing Overheated Before Ohio Train Derailment, NTSB Finds” The Wall Street Journal, 24 Feb. 2023, https://www.wsj.com/articles/train-car-wheel-bearing-overheated-before-ohio-train-derailment-ntsb-finds-ad721c29
4. “Ohio toxic train crash killed nearly 45,000 animals” BBC, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-64749041
5. “NTSB Preliminary Report: What happened before train derailment?” WKBN.com, 22 Feb. 2023, https://www.wkbn.com/news/local-news/east-palestine-train-derailment/ntsb-to-release-preliminary-report-in-east-palestine-train-derailment/
6. “East Palestine train derailment killed 40,000 fish” Canton Repository, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.cantonrep.com/story/news/2023/02/23/east-palestine-train-derailment-wildlife-impact/69935455007/
7. “NTSB calls Ohio train derailment ‘100% preventable,' says operators were warned of overheated axle” Fox News, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.foxnews.com/us/ohio-train-derailment-operators-warned-overheated-axle-moments-before-wreck-ntsb
8. “Angry Ohio residents confront train CEO during CNN town hall on toxic wreck” CNN, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/02/23/us/ohio-train-derailment-east-palestine-townhall-takeaways/index.html
9. “Officials make a show of drinking East Palestine water in attempt to prove it's safe” Yahoo News, 23 Feb. 2023, https://news.yahoo.com/east-palestine-drinking-water-officials-photo-ops-devils-milkshake-224415127.html