Prioritizing Safety

The recent train derailment and chemical spill in East Palestine, Ohio has left the country questioning its railways, infrastructure and safety. 

Norfolk Southern, the rail company responsible for the train cars which spilled vinyl chloride into the town and surrounding area, has come under heavy fire for its lack of safety regulations. 

Since then, videos of train derailments around the country have spread like wildfire, with many of the derailments coming from the same culprit — Norfolk Southern. These accidents come just months after the company lobbied against safety regulations, which included a requirement to have a minimum of two crew workers on trains.

After the derailment, Norfolk Southern performed a controlled release — or burning — of the vinyl chloride to avoid any other potential accidents. This created a massive cloud of black smoke above East Palestine, which was visible for miles.  

In fact, this is far from the first time that an incident like this has happened. Since 2015, at least 20 Norfolk Southern trains have derailed and had chemical releases. These releases, especially the one in East Palestine, have caused concern for the local people and environment. 

Vinyl chloride is carcinogenic, so can you really blame people for being worried about thousands of gallons of it being burned in their general area, let alone their backyard? Luckily, no illnesses have been directly linked to the chemical release yet, but who knows what could be discovered in the future?

With an accident like this happening so close by, it’s especially important for us as a local community to ask questions about how this affects people and the environment, and what caused this derailment to occur. More than 1,000 train derailments happen across the country every year, and rail companies need to be held accountable.

Accidents like this affect people. The citizens of East Palestine had to evacuate their homes and move back under uncertain conditions. A lot of people and supplies move along our country’s rail lines and derailments are a threat to both our safety and the economy.

It seems like the government is starting to recognize the responsibility that companies like Norfolk Southern have in derailments. The EPA has moved into East Palestine to clean up the mess left by the rail company and is making Norfolk Southern pay the bill.

If Norfolk Southern does not assist in the cleanup, the EPA threatens to charge triple the cost of what it takes to remove what’s left of the chemicals. This is a step in the right direction and will hopefully push rail companies to hold to higher safety standards.

In the end, only time will tell if this disaster teaches rail companies to not cut costs and put safety as the highest priority. Until then, we can only hope something like this doesn’t happen again.