On the morning of November 30, 2012, a large train derailed shortly after partially crossing a rail bridge over Mantua Creek in Paulsboro, Gloucester County, New Jersey. The rail bridge collapsed, and part of the train plunged into Mantua Creek. The derailment ruptured at least one tanker car on the train that was loaded with a hazardous material, which has been reported to be vinyl chloride. Some other tankers on the derailed train also were carrying the same chemical, according to state and federal environmental officials. This event forced the evacuation of more than 400 area residents. As I write this blog post, the cleanup process and the derailment investigation are ongoing, the evacuation remains in effect, and residents are, understandably, quite concerned about the situation.
The exact cause of the train derailment and the effects of it remain under investigation. During a recent information session for the community, some local residents have criticized state and federal authorities for not providing timely information concerning this hazardous materials incident. The most common questions from residents have concerned air monitoring, environmental information, the type of long-term effects the vinyl chloride would have on the community, community assistance, and community protection. Several residents went to hospitals on November 30th for health complaints related to the inhalation of vapors from the hazardous and potentially-lethal materials, chemicals, and vapors that leaked from the ruptured tankers on the train. As a lifelong resident of Gloucester County (and specifically an area that is in close proximity to the site of the derailment), I take these health and environmental issues seriously. If you or anyone you know has been harmed or injured as a result of the effects of this train derailment, contact me to discuss your situation. I am hopeful that no one will have to call me, but if the need arises, I am here to help.