Evacuations After Train Carrying Hazardous Materials Derails in Pennsylvania

So far, there are no reports of hazardous materials leaking.
WADDY, KY - JANUARY 5: A westbound Norfolk Southern Corp. freight train makes its way along the tracks January 6, 2014 in Waddy, Kentucky. Intermodal rail traffic in the United States increased 10.6% in the last week of 2013 compared to the same week in 2012 according to a report from the Association of American Railroads. Volumes rose due in part to demand from retailers restocking store shelves and distribution centers following the holiday retail crush. (Photo by Luke Sharrett/Getty Images)
Luke Sharrett/Getty Images

A freight train derailed in eastern Pennsylvania on Monday morning, triggering precautionary evacuations from homes and businesses in the area.

The 40-car CSX freight train derailed in Whitemarsh Township just north of Philadelphia at about 4:50 am. About 15 to 20 cars were bumped off the tracks, according to helicopter footage.

So far, there are no reports of hazardous materials leaking from the train cars, and there are no reported injuries.

“As of now, the only thing that is leaking from any of the rail cars involved is silicone pellets, which pose no risk to the community,” Whitemarsh Township police said.

“Precautionary evacuations have occurred at the residents and businesses closest to the scene. It is not believed that further evacuations will be needed, but we will evaluate as we know more,” police said.

County emergency public safety workers are also on the scene, police said.

CSX said in a press release that only one car was transporting hazardous materials and that the local fire department evacuated about a dozen homes “out of an abundance of caution.”

“The cause of the incident appears to be weather related,” CSX said in their press release.

Investigators are still working to find the cause of the derailment.

The CSX train was traveling on tracks owned by Norfolk Southern, the company behind the Ohio train derailment in February that spilled harmful chemicals into the environment.

In February, a Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous materials derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, causing highly noxious chemicals to leak into the area’s atmosphere.

Officials decided to do a controlled burn of the chemicals in the train cars, releasing them into the air. One of those chemicals was vinyl chloride, a highly flammable substance used to make PVC and known to cause cancer.

Residents of East Palestine were initially evacuated but were later told they could return to their homes. However, many remained concerned that the dangerous materials have impacted air and water quality, and some residents reported negative health effects, including trouble breathing, headaches, and damage to their voices. Animals also died in the wake of the accident, including thousands of fish.

The Ohio derailment and a string of other Norfolk Southern derailments prompted Congress to ask Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw to testify before Congress.


During his testimony, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) pushed Shaw to commit to lobbying for improved safety regulations.

“I just really thought when you said ‘turn over a new leaf,’ I thought you were saying you were going to now support safety regulations,” Merkley said. “I’m sorry you can’t tell this crowd here today that would like to hear that, that that is the case.”

In the aftermath of the accidents, the National Transportation Safety Board also announced a special investigation into Norfolk Southern.

Police said that Norfolk Southern and CSX representatives were at the crash site.

Pennsylvania Democratic Governor Josh Shapiro said he and his team are “monitoring” the train derailment and assisting local responders.


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