St. Louis, Mo., Feb 14, 2023 / 05:40 am
An early February train derailment in rural Ohio led to a major ecological disaster after hazardous materials caused a massive fire and smoke plume, which prompted widespread evacuations.
The roughly 150-car Norfolk Southern train derailed near the town of East Palestine, about an hour northwest of Pittsburgh, on Feb. 3. Twenty of the cars were carrying hazardous materials, including vinyl chloride, and caught fire, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Although no injuries have yet been reported as a result of the crash, on Feb. 6 a “controlled release of toxic fumes” was conducted leading to a massive, black smoke plume being released into the atmosphere, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported. Among the gasses released, officials said, was the colorless phosgene, a highly toxic gas with a strong odor that can cause vomiting and breathing trouble and was used as a weapon in World War I, PBS Newshour reported.
The area surrounding the crash was evacuated as a result, and although authorities have now allowed residents to return, questions about air and water quality near the crash site remain.