Ohio officials plan controlled release of hazardous chemicals in East Palestine train derailment
Emergency officials are planning on performing a controlled release of the hazardous chemicals from the derailed train in East Palestine Monday at 3:30 pm. The 50 car derailment occurred Friday and has been on fire since then. Five cars contain the chemical vinyl chloride, which is a known carcinogen.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine ordered an urgent evacuation notice to residents living within a mile of the derailment late Sunday night, when a drastic temperature shift created the environment for a "catastrophic tanker failure" which could lead to an explosion with deadly shrapnel traveling up to a mile away while releasing toxic fumes. Monday, the governor changed the order to expand to a one mile by two mile area surrounding East Palestine, which includes Ohio and Pennsylvania.
"We were in a position where we had to weigh different risks with no great choices," DeWine said.
To control the burning, a hole will be made in the cars to allow the material to run into a pit dug for this operation, Scott Deutsch with Norfolk Southern Railroad said. Inside the pit will be flares, which will light the chemicals. This is expected to take one to three hours depending on the amount of material, he said.
"If we don't do that, the car could continue to polymerize and the entire car could break apart. We can't control where that goes, so that's the reason for doing this, get moving on this is that we don't have to run into letting the car do it itself," Deutsch said. "We want to be able to control that situation. That's the safest way... is to control the situation, and that's what this operation we're going to take this afternoon."
The burning of vinyl chloride could be deadly to people within a one mile radius of the site, DeWine said. Those two miles away could face severe injury, including skin burns and lung damage, he said.
It's believed that most residents of the area have evacuated, DeWine said.
"We have no knowledge that anybody's left, but we did not want to take any chances," DeWine said. The Ohio National Guard is working ahead of the controlled release to ensure everyone has evacuated, he said. On the Pennsylvania side, the 20 households in Beaver County in danger have been evacuated, with most residents leaving last night, Beaver County Commissioner Daniel Camp confirmed.
It's unknown when residents can return to their homes, DeWine said.
"It's not going to be immediate," DeWine said. "It's not going to be quickly."
DeWine urged any residents still in the area to evacuate immediately.
"You need to leave. You just need to leave. We're ordering you to leave," DeWine pleaded. "This is a matter of life and death. You are in imminent danger. You need to leave immediately."