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Mystery Train

Fallout from Ohio derailment & chemical release continues

​​Trains continue to make headlines for worrisome reasons, with one incident under heightened scrutiny in Ohio after two weeks.

The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) investigation of the Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern freight train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio is ongoing, per a February 14 press release from the Washington body.

On Feb. 3, at approximately 8:54 p.m., local time, eastbound Norfolk Southern Railway, general merchandise freight train 32N, derailed on main track 1 in East Palestine, Ohio. As a result of the derailment, 38 rail cars derailed and a fire ensued which damaged an additional 12 cars. There were 20 total hazardous material cars in the train consist—11 of which derailed.

A list of what the derailed rail cars were carrying is available online. There were no reported fatalities or injuries.

NTSB is in the process of conducting a safety investigation to determine the probable cause of the derailment and issue any safety recommendations, if necessary, to prevent future derailments. The NTSB can also issue urgent recommendations at any point during the investigation. While emergency response will be a factor in the investigation, NTSB said it "is not involved in air monitoring, testing of water quality, environmental remediation or the evacuation orders."

(To see the EPA's assessment, view this East Palestine Train Derailment - EPA OSC Response)

"NTSB investigators have identified and examined the rail car that initiated the derailment," read part of the Valentine's Day statement. "Surveillance video from a residence showed what appears to be a wheel bearing in the final stage of overheat failure moments before the derailment. The wheelset from the suspected railcar has been collected as evidence for metallurgical examination. The suspected overheated wheel bearing has been collected and will be examined by engineers from the NTSB Materials Laboratory in Washington, D.C.

The tank cars are currently being decontaminated. Once the process is complete, NTSB investigators will return to Ohio to complete a thorough examination of the tank cars."

The statement also went on at length in an attempt to address whirling concerns about toxicity and environmental impact, asserting that "the vinyl chloride tank car top fittings, including the relief valves, were removed and secured in a locked intermodal container pending an NTSB examination. Once the fittings are examined by NTSB investigators, they will be shipped to Texas for testing, which will be conducted under the direction of the NTSB."

The transportation board added that it has obtained locomotive event recorder data, forward- and inward-facing image recording data and wayside defect detector data. NTSB investigators continue to review documentation, event recorder data and perform interviews. A preliminary report is expected to be published in two weeks.

While on scene, NTSB Member Michael Graham hosted two press briefing on Feb. 4 and Feb. 5, which are available on NTSB’s YouTube channel. B-Roll is also available on YouTube.​

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