PA governor says Norfolk Southern gave ‘inaccurate information’ about chemical release

Feb 16, 2023 | 0 comments

The company was unwilling to explore or even discuss alternatives to venting and burning the vinyl chloride, the governor said. 

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Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro said Norfolk Southern “gave inaccurate information” about the controlled release of the toxic chemical vinyl chloride from five derailed train cars in East Palestine, Ohio, about a quarter of a mile away from the Pennsylvania state line.

Norfolk Southern did not notify Pennsylvania state authorities after its train derailed earlier this month, but instead the state agencies independently learned about the incident several hours later, Shaprio, a Democrat, wrote in a letter Tuesday to Norfolk Southern CEO and President Alan Shaw.

“Norfolk Southern gave inaccurate information and conflicting modeling about the impact of the controlled release that made protective action decision making more difficult in the immediate aftermath of the derailment,” the governor wrote.

The railroad company said it would vent and burn one car with vinyl chloride and did not initially notify state and local authorities about their plans to vent and burn all five vinyl chloride cars, Shaprio said. Norfolk Southern also did not immediately inform officials about the number of railroad cars with dangerous chemicals.

Norfolk Southern conducted its own operation and planning after the incident, forcing state and local response agencies to act in response to the company’s actions, rather than working with the company, Shapiro also said.

The company was unwilling to explore or even discuss alternatives to venting and burning the vinyl chloride, which was done to avoid an explosion. The decision to release the toxic chemicals was made without input from Pennsylvania officials, which is especially important considering that the state is downwind from the accident, the governor said. Other options were available that “may have kept the rail line closed longer but could have resulted in a safer overall approach,” Shaprio wrote.

After the controlled release of chemicals, thousands of fish were found dead in local streams and residents reported that their pets suddenly died.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday there are no water quality concerns in the area. Monday is the last day the EPA said its air monitoring stations “did not detect anything above the action level.”





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