CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP)– In the aftermath of the Ohio train derailment, people here in western Massachusetts may have questions about the dangers and the recourse for residents impacted by this type of disaster.
The 22News I-Team examined everything from the response to the legal action that could follow.
Interstates 91 and 90, and state Routes 5 and 20 pass through West Springfield. The town is also home to a CSX train rail yard. Whether a truck rolls over on the highway or a train derails, West Springfield Fire Department Lieutenant Tony Spear told 22News the training for firefighters is the same.
“The things that we’re looking for are going to be what is in and on the train and then secondly what are our resources? Do we have enough to mitigate the situation?” explained Spear.
After verifying there are hazardous materials, firefighters will call in the hazardous material team to contain what’s there.
A similar scene played out in East Palestine, Ohio, that led to the decision of a controlled explosion of vinyl chloride in an effort to avoid a larger one. After testing from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found no evidence of the carcinogen in the air around or the water supply residents returned to their homes.
Katherine Schlef is an Assistant Professor of Civil and Environment Engineering at Western New England University. She said water suppliers already test for vinyl chloride, as mandated by the EPA. Scientists can figure out how far and how fast contaminants can spread through simple equations that can fit on the back of an envelope.
“This is all basic stuff that you’re learning in say a groundwater engineering class or an environmental engineering class if you were an engineer in your junior or senior year,” said Schlef.
Class-action lawsuits are being filed against Norfolk Southern. Western New England University Law Professor Julie Steiner expects lawsuits will focus on watching the potential health impacts this could have on residents, or if there was negligence.
“Those arguments are going to be two fold: looking at what they should have done before the accident and looking at what they did in response to the accident,” remarked Steiner.
Steiner added that after the initial response to a disaster like what we saw in Ohio, time and investigation will help us better understand the long term impacts of the derailment.