A Norfolk Southern cargo train derailed on Saturday afternoon between Dayton and Columbus, Ohio, with 28 of its 212 cars derailing, including four empty tankers. According to Norfolk Southern and Clark County officials, the train was heading from Bellevue, Ohio, to Birmingham, Alabama, and the derailment occurred at about 4:45 p.m. in Springfield Township, near a business park and the county fairgrounds. Springfield is located approximately 46 miles (74 km) west of the state capital of Columbus.
As a precaution, residents living within 1,000 feet of the derailment were asked to shelter in place, and the county hazmat team was deployed. However, officials confirmed on Sunday that there was no evidence of spillage at the site, and no hazardous materials were involved in the derailment.
Norfolk Southern general manager Kraig Barner revealed that a couple of other cars on the train were carrying liquid propane, and a couple more were carrying ethanol. The rest of the train was made up of mixed freight, such as steel and finished automobiles, he said. Barner also stated that many of the cars that derailed were empty boxcars.
Officials said two of the four empty tanker cars that derailed had previously carried diesel exhaust fluid, and the other two had residual amounts of polyacrylamide water solution, which is commonly used in wastewater treatment.
County officials have confirmed that the derailment is not near a protected water source, meaning there is no risk to public water systems or private wells. The shelter-in-place order affected only four or five homes, officials said.
No injuries to the public or to the train’s two-person crew were reported. The cause of the derailment is currently under investigation, and the findings will be turned over to the Federal Railroad Administration.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine stated on Saturday night that President Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg had called him “to offer help from the federal government.”
This is the second derailment of a Norfolk Southern freight train in Ohio in a month. On Feb. 3, 38 cars of a Norfolk Southern freight train derailed in East Palestine, in northeast Ohio near Pennsylvania, and several of the train’s cars carrying hazardous materials burned.
Although no one was injured, nearby neighborhoods in both states were imperiled. The crash prompted an evacuation of about half the town’s roughly 5,000 residents, an ongoing multigovernmental emergency response, and lingering worries among villagers of long-term health impacts.
The derailment on Saturday has raised concerns about the safety of train transportation, particularly when it comes to the transportation of hazardous materials. Train derailments can have catastrophic consequences, as seen in the 2013 Lac-Mégantic derailment in Quebec, Canada, where a freight train carrying crude oil derailed and caused a fire and explosions that killed 47 people and destroyed much of the town’s downtown area. Since then, there have been calls for increased safety measures, including more robust regulations and better training for railway workers.
Norfolk Southern has stated that it is committed to ensuring the safety of its operations, including the transportation of hazardous materials. The company has a comprehensive safety program that includes regular inspections, training for employees, and the use of advanced technology to monitor its trains and tracks.
However, accidents like the one on Saturday show that more needs to be done to prevent train derailments and ensure the safety of both railway workers and the public. The investigation into the cause of the derailment will likely shed more light on what went wrong and what can be done to prevent similar accidents in the future.