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Latest Ohio derailment poses no public risk, officials say

Officials confirmed Sunday afternoon that no hazardous materials were involved in the derailment.

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — Authorities in Ohio say there is no indication of any risk to public health from the derailment of a Norfolk Southern cargo train between Dayton and Columbus, the second derailment of a company train in the state in a month.

Norfolk Southern and Clark County officials say 28 of the southbound train’s 212 cars, including four empty tankers, derailed at about 4:45 p.m. Saturday in Springfield Township near a business park and the county fairgrounds. Springfield is about 46 miles (74 kilometers) west of the state capital of Columbus.

As a precaution, residents living within 1,000 feet (305 meters) were asked to shelter in place and responding firefighters deployed the county hazmat team as a precaution, but officials early Sunday said there was "no indication of any injuries or risk to public health at this time.”

A crew from Norfolk Southern, the hazmat team and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency “each independently examined the crash site and verified there was no evidence of spillage at the site,” officials said.

Officials confirmed Sunday afternoon that no hazardous materials were involved in the derailment.

Norfolk Southern general manager Kraig Barner said, however, that a couple of other cars on the train heading from Bellevue, Ohio, to Birmingham, Alabama, 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.

“A lot of the cars that were actually derailed were empty boxcars,” Barner said.

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 Barner said is an additive commonly used in wastewater treatment.

County officials say environmental 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, he said. The cause of the derailment is under investigation and the findings will be turned over to the Federal Railroad Administration, Barner said.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said late Saturday night that President Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg had called him “to offer help from the federal government.”

Dean Blair, the Executive Director of the Clark County Fairgrounds, says they had to cancel an event at The Champion Center, but he’s relieved that’s all that happened.

“We were just thrilled and relieved and feel like our community's been very blessed that there's been no leakage. And that that the other cars on the train that had things on them made it through without derailment. That's a wonderful thing,” Blair said.

The National Transportation Safety Board issued a statement on its investigation into the incident, which you can read below.

“Investigators will arrive on site today to begin the on-scene portion of the investigation of the derailment of Norfolk Southern Train Number 179. They will be looking at the condition of the track, the mechanical condition of the train, operations, the position of the cars in the train, and signal and train control among other things. They will also be collecting event recorder data, on-board image recorders, and will conduct interviews with the crew and other witnesses. A preliminary report will be available in 2-3 weeks.”

On Feb. 3, 38 cars of a Norfolk Southern freight train in East Palestine, in northeast Ohio near Pennsylvania, derailed and several of the train’s cars carrying hazardous materials burned.

Though 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.

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