Frustrations continue to boil over after a train crash in Ohio prompted evacuations

Published: Feb. 16, 2023 at 6:49 PM CST
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(KMOV) -- Frustrations continue to boil over after a train crash in Ohio prompted evacuations and concerns about the hazardous materials on board.

The Norfolk Southern train departed from Madison, Illinois, and was bound for Conway, Pennsylvania, when it derailed. Which begs the question could this happen where we live? The answer is a concerning one to some people: you aren’t exactly entitled to know. At least, not very easily.

“I have been screaming from the rooftops, this is a problem,” said Gerri Songer, with the LA Coalition Rail Safety Campaign. She’s based near Chicago.

“Assume that any of them could be traveling through your community at any given moment,” she said. “They are carrying toxic, corrosive, explosive materials.”

Though it’s easy to find maps online of the railways themselves, knowing what’s on the trains is a bit harder.

While derailments and crashes are very rare, the one in Ohio, carrying vinyl chloride, has raised concern. In recent years, two train derailments in our area in Dupo have prompted temporary hazmat responses.

But, finding out what chemicals are on trains near you can be tricky. They’re required by law to display placards, with information on what they’re carrying.

Songer told News 4 you can look up what the placards mean, using certain apps that you can find in your phone’s app store. She sai if you’re concerned about train safety, you can raise your voice to local leaders.

“Be advocates, take a look at what’s going on on the track but again, I would assume at any given moment, it could be something really bad,” she said.

Songer said railways are exempt from other federal regulations that require disclosure to the public of where hazardous materials are.

The rail companies do report certain information to local state and federal governments, but she and other advocates are pushing for more transparency and better planning in the event of accidents and evacuations.