Loveland Reporter-Herald

Residents worry about going home, toxic gas from derailment

- By John Seewer and Patrick Orsagos

Brittany Dailey stood outside her hotel watching black smoke darken the sky 10 miles to the west as crews burned toxic chemicals from tanker cars that derailed just down the street from her home.

The faint smell of chlorine hung in the air Monday night while she wondered even if she’d want to return home — not knowing whether it’d be safe for her 8-year-old son and their Saint Bernard.

“I’m scared to go back home,” she said the next day. “I’m eventually going to have to go back, but it makes me want to sell my house and move at this point.”

Air monitoring so far had not detected dangerous levels of fumes in the Ohio and Pennsylvan­ia communitie­s near the derailment site, but residents living close to the wreckage still weren’t being allowed back, authoritie­s said Tuesday.

While the fire from the controlled release of the chemicals was no longer burning, authoritie­s said they want to ensure the air is safe before lifting the evacuation order issued by the governors in Ohio and Pennsylvan­ia who warned that the fumes could cause death or serious injury to those nearby.

“I want nothing more than to get my residents back home,” said East Palestine Fire Chief Keith Drabik.

James Justice of the U.S. Environmen­tal Protection Agency said a network of air station monitors inside and outside the evacuation zone was collecting samples and that none of their readings found anything to be concerned about. “We want to make sure that’s not going to change,” he said.

Authoritie­s were still developing a plan that would allow them to know when residents could go home, he said.

National Guard members wearing protective gear would be deployed to take readings inside homes, basements and businesses, said Major General John Harris


But all of that did little to reassure residents who were forced to leave after about 50 cars, including 10 carrying hazardous materials, derailed in a fiery crash Friday night on the edge of East Palestine.

So far, no injuries have been reported from the derailment or the controlled release but some people have complained about smelling chlorine and smoke in the air and having headaches.

Most, if not all, residents in the danger zone left well before officials decided on Monday that the safest way to prevent a more dangerous explosion would be to release and burn the vinyl chloride inside five of the derailed tanker cars.

Forced evacuation­s began Sunday night after authoritie­s became alarmed the rail cars could explode after a “drastic temperatur­e change” was observed in one car.

Federal investigat­ors say a mechanical issue with a rail car axle caused the derailment.

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