December 10, 2012 — A mother from Paulsboro, New Jersey has filed a lawsuit against Conrail, Norfolk Southern Railway Company, and CSX Transportation after a train derailment spilled the toxic chemical vinyl chloride into the air and water. Hundreds of people were evacuated and dozens went to the hospital. The woman, Alice Breeman, alleges that she and her family suffered breathing problems and unknown future complications.
The freight train derailed on the bridge at about 7 a.m. on November 30, 2012. Three cars carrying toxic chemicals were ripped open in the accident, and officials said that one car was carrying 23,000 gallons of vinyl chloride, a highly toxic and flammable chemical. Some of that chemical spilled into the air in gas form. Two other cars carrying vinyl chloride fell into the creek.
Ten days after the spill occurred, a lawsuit was filed in New Jersey federal court. The lawsuit alleges that the train companies were negligent for allowing the train to cross the a swing bridge over Mantua Creek despite a red signal, and for failing to inspect the bridge adequately.
That same bridge was the site of a 2009 train derailment, in which 16 cars from a 50-car train carrying coal spilled their cargo into the Mantua Creek.
Paulsboro Public Schools are scheduled to reopen tomorrow. Hundreds of area residents were allowed back into their homes this past weekend after tests of the air and homes detected zero vinyl chloride. Local HazMat teams and CSX environmental teams are still working to clean up the chemical.
Vinyl chloride is used to manufacture PVC and other common plastics. The gas form of the chemical has a sweet smell that can cause irritation of the eyes, throat, and lungs. In high concentrations, it can cause loss of consciousness and death.
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