Ohio Train Derailment Raises Serious Issues of Transportation & Environmental Safety

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On Feb. 3, just before 9 p.m. ET, a Norfolk Southern train derailed near East Palestine, Ohio, a town of about 4,800 people near the border with Pennsylvania. Nobody was hurt in the accident, officials say. (At least nobody was immediately hurt…long term harm is certainly predictable)

Most of the train’s 150 rail cars were carrying cargo that was not hazardous, officials say, such as cement, steel and frozen vegetables, according a manifest of the derailed cars provided to the Environmental Protection Agency.

But 20 cars contained hazardous materials, according to an update this week from the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the derailment.

About three dozen cars derailed overall, 11 of which were carrying hazardous material, investigators said.

The NTSB’s investigation is not yet complete, but early signs suggest that a faulty wheel bearing on one rail car may have caused the derailment, the board said.

Surveillance video from a home near the crash site recorded “what appears to be a wheel bearing in the final stage of overheat failure moments before the derailment,” investigators said this week.

The NTSB says it expects to release a preliminary report in about two weeks.


When we as students heard about this story and imagined ourselves in the position of these Ohio residents it made us stop and think about the fragile balance of society in terms of personal safety and physical health.  

  1. Why was the train left as wreckage with chemicals still spilling out for so long?
  2. How many residents were directly affected by polluted air and contaminated drinking water?
  3. How long will it take to correct the consequences of this accident?
  4. How will the train company be held accountable and what could have been done differently?
  5. How often do hazardous chemicals get transported so close to residential neighborhoods in America?  Does it have to be this way?

Contaminated Water