Chemical burned in controlled explosion from East Palestine train derailment is vinyl chloride

Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 2:11 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 6, 2023 at 3:30 PM EST
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EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WOIO) - Norfolk-Southern Railroad conducted a “controlled explosion” after a train carrying vinyl chloride derailed in East Palestine.

Five out of the 100 train cars were loaded with the chemical.

The train derailed on Friday, and the controlled release happened at 4 p.m. on Monday as an attempt to keep the tanker cars from exploding on their own.

The plan involved using a small charge to blow a hole in each of the rail cars containing the chemical, letting them drain into a pit that has been dug, and using flare lighting it, and burning it off.

[ Controlled release of gas occurs in East Palestine following train derailment ]

An expanded evacuation zone now stretches one mile by two miles because according to an official with Norfolk Southern, inhaling the burning chemical could be deadly.

Kurt Rhoads, an environmental engineer and associate professor for Care Western Reserve University, held a conversation about the chemicals and potential harm.

When asked if Rhodes could put this on a scale of one to 10 in seriousness, “I mean certainly if I lived near by this would be close to a 10 for me and my family. If I lived in that community I would be at a 10 getting out of there protecting my family.”

According to the environmental engineer, the major impact will be felt for years to come as the chemical gets into the ground water and dissipates to near by wells used for drinking water.

“If I try to make a scale of things you would not want to have in a derailed, toppled over rail car that’s leaking and burning this is also near the top of that list. I can think of some worse things but I would put it at a seven or an eight,” Rhodes said.