Rail cars moving crude oil need makeover


Lucy Schaly/Beaver County Times

Flames continue to burn a day after a Norfolk Southern train derailed on Oct. 21, 2006, in New Brighton, Pa.

Late on  Nov.  26, 2013, a train derailment and chemical spill forced hundreds of residents to be evacuated from their homes in Willard, Ohio, about 65 miles southwest of Cleveland. Thousands of gallons of styrene monomer, a highly flammable chemical, leaked from the tank of a CSX railroad DOT-111 rail car into the nearby soil.   No injuries were reported and the cold weather helped ensure that the chemical didn’t ignite.

The Federal Railroad Administration has not released yet the results of its investigation into the cause of the derailment or the chemical spill. Brian Humphress, Willard’s city manager, said emergency responders, state and federal agencies, and CSX handled the clean-up smoothly and the town appears to have recovered well from the accident.    But officials in other states and in federal agencies are starting to question the safety of the DOT-111 and whether the aging rail car should be used to carry new types of cargo such as crude oil from fracking.

Public Source,  a Pittsburgh-based non-profit journalism organization and fellow Investigative News Network member, takes an in-depth look at the issue.


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