Toxic Waste Causes Lock Down in Three NJ Towns

This is a developing story, but it appears that our crumbling infrastructure has given us another serious problem. A Conrail bridge, which had been under suspicion by area residents, collapsed – causing a train loaded with toxic vinyl chloride to fall into a creek. Watching the local news chopper’s video, it appears to me that the first responders are not outfitted with HAZMAT suits. Should we be worried about their well-being?

Comments (6)

  1. vmars

    ’nuff said

  2. interested observer

    reports say the bridge with an iron A-frame dates to 1873.  It was actually repaired after a derailment in 2009… here was the story at the time…

  3. deciminyan (Post author)

    For Immediate Release

    November 30, 2012

    Contact:          Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club, 609-558-9100

    Derailment Part of Bigger Problems

    Yesterday a train derailment in Paulsboro resulted in hazardous materials reaching the Mantua Creek.  We hope the spill is minimized and people are safe.  These kinds of spills and derailments happen way too frequently on our nation’s rail lines  There are dozens of spills every year and there are usually 2 or 3 catastrophic spills.  Many of these trains that are carrying millions of gallons of toxic and hazardous chemicals are traveling through some of the most densely populated areas of the country, many of the communities we call home here in New Jersey. By entering the Mantua Creek these chemicals could impact aquatic ecosystems and groundwater.

    “We need more oversight and we need to put in place programs to make our trains safer and less vulnerable to spills.  We need to do a better job maintaining our rail lines to prevent derailments.  For far too long the rail roads have been able to avoid making their trains safer and those loopholes need to be closed,” said Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club.

    This spill may have been the result of a bridge collapse.  We need to do more to ensure our bridges and trellises are maintained and that the rail lines themselves are safe.  

    There are not enough inspectors to ensure the lines are safe.  We need programs in place to ensure the tanks themselves do not leak if there is an issue.  For too long the railroads have been exempt from many of the stricter standards that have been proposed to make the transportation of these chemicals safer. We need to route these chemicals through unpopulated instead.  It will take federal legislation to close these loopholes.

    We need better notice to municipalities of what is coming through their communities so that they can have evacuation plans in place.  Some of the chemicals can not only cause serious harm to people but can impact large areas, miles around the site of the spill.  Congress has tried for years to raise the liability caps on such chemical spills.  This spill is leaking vinyl chloride, a carcinogen into the Mantua Creek.  Such spills can also involve volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) and benzene, very unstable and dangerous chemicals.

    Many of the rail companies have huge freight trains to save money that are taking hundreds of cars of hazardous materials, increasing the likelihood of spills.  A few years ago, a tank burst in the Baltimore Harbor Rail Tunnel, closing down the north east corridor and putting people in harm’s way.    We have seen major spills this year alone in Kentucky, South Carolina, Virginia and Indiana.

    “We are playing railroad Russian Roulette with all the tanker cars carrying toxic materials through populated areas.  There are too many spills happening across this country from freight trains.  We are concerned if we do not make our rail lines safer we will see more derailments and spills and more catastrophic impacts to communities,” said Jeff Tittel. “There needs to be more information so that towns know what is coming through their towns and the liability caps need to be raised.”

  4. carolh

    It should be noted by anyone with PVC pipes exposed in their houses and yards and for anyone with vinyl siding that you are already exposed to this very same chemical.  For some strange reason we still use PVC for everything when we know that as a plastic it releases vinyl chloride into the environment.  This stuff is hazardous, absolutely.  This event was the first of many unless we fix our infrastructure ASAP. But we also need to examine our society’s use of this chemical in the first place.  We are overly exposed to this very same chemical all the time – every day. Homeowners even wrap their homes in the stuff – which makes no sense – because it is flammable.  One reason I chose a house WITHOUT vinyl siding.  And why I specify HDPE – which does not offgas vinyl chloride.  We need to address this horrible emergency – but we also need to address the long term use of this environmentally harmful substance because of our addiction and ubiquitous overuse of PVC plastic when safer alternatives exist.


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