Railroad workers are calling for urgent reforms in the aftermath of a horrific train derailment in Ohio that carried toxic chemicals.
Workers and union officials said the derailment should be an “eye-opening” revelation for Congress and “an illustration of how the railroads operate, and how they’re getting away with a lot of things”.
The train derailment in Ohio forced thousands of residents to evacuate and is now spreading a noxious plume of carcinogenic chemicals across the area.
It comes as U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg has called out the rail operator at the center of a hazardous train derailment in Ohio. The calls are mounting for something urgently to be done.
Ohio senator Sherrod Brown harshly criticized corporate lobbyists and Norfolk Southern, the Atlanta-based operator of the train that derailed in East Palestine, Ohio.
Speaking on Sunday to CNN’s State of the Union, the Democrat said the derailment, which released toxic chemicals including the carcinogenic vinyl chloride, was an episode of “the same old story”, and that Norfolk Southern “caused it”.
Buttieg has also called out the Norfolk Southern Railway Company, sending a sharply worded, three-page letter to the railway president and CEO Alan Shaw.
Buttigieg accused the company of repeatedly prioritizing profit over safety.
It represents a problematic ethos within the larger transportation industry that the secretary said has contributed to a number of derailments over the years.
Workers and union officials cited the Norfolk Southern Railway derailment in early February as a glaring example of why safety reforms to the industry – which include providing workers with paid sick leave – need to be made.
The images from East Palestine, Ohio, earlier this month were frightening. They showed a giant tower of thick, black smoke rising from a train wreck and expanding into the horizon as if a bomb went off.
The description of what happened is equally horrifying. A large train derailed that was carrying hazardous chemicals, and some of them leaked into the air, water, and soil. To avert an explosion, authorities purposefully detonated a chemical called vinyl chloride, which caused the dark plume.
Experts warn that the specific risks of the spill are still unknown, including the long-term threat.