Since I live close enough to this area to breathe in the vinyl chloride should the wind blow in the right direction, I thought it might be beneficial for me to give a brief perspective of the situation--even if that means blowing my so-called 'cover' as to my identity...ie I may be easier to track. (Since I don't particularly care any more as I have far greater issues to worry about, I'll take my chances!)
In a nutshell, a century-old swing bridge that carries Conrail (CSX) train cars collapsed. Train cars plummeted into the Mantua Creek, one of which began leaking the vinyl chloride chemical. This particular chemical is a known carcinogen which is also easily ignited.The Mantua Creek (the area of water considered affected) flows into the Delaware River. This area is across the river from the Philadelphia Airport...which was a big media deal as President Obama was flying in there before going to an event in PA.
Fumes leaked into the air, causing at least seventy people to go to the nearest hospital (Underwood Memorial in Woodbury, NJ). At this time, at least three additional train cars carrying that same chemical are still in the water. They are going to undertake removing these cars with a huge crane the railroad has to bring in--which presents difficulty as any slippage or problem could cause additional chemical leakage.
Thankfully, we had a very CALM wind on Friday. Winds were clocked at about six miles per hour. Still, some nearby homes were affected and were evacuated. Paulsboro school went into immediate lock down. People were kept from the affected towns. All schools in neighboring areas were sending text/e-mail updates to parents of students. That aspect of the emergency seemed to go relatively smoothly.
Paulsboro receives a lot of train traffic due to its proximity to Camden Riverfront and its host of industrial businesses and oil refineries. These businesses will now have to have their materials trucked or put on barges and carried along the Delaware River.
Here's where it gets interesting:
Numerous reporters and first responders fly to this area and not ONE is shown using any kind of protective mask...which leads me to wonder why? I mean, local people living near the area were told to stay inside. Do we really believe first responders should be put at risk simply to keep the 'calm'. Later, the technicians from the railroad were all suitably dressed and looked to be taking precautions...while the cops were seen standing around. I wonder how many will eventually join the law suits which I am now sure will already be put into place.
This bridge had been rebuilt in 2009 after another incident. No one seems to worry about the safety of train bridges which are often quite elderly and in precarious safety conditions.
Our state Senate President Steve Sweeny, immediately claimed there had been 'complaints in recent weeks'. He is head of the Iron Workers Union. He also is currently one of those who wants to be governor of NJ in the near future which is really no big secret in NJ. His main problem is that he is from SOUTH Jersey. New Jersey really is divided into north and south and there is no secret that the south is considered the poor 'stepchild' while the north is considered part of NY by those in the know. Mr. Sweeny managed to hold a seat as a freeholder AND NJ State Senator for some years, thereby collecting two salaries at the same time. (Nice work if you can get it. That has changed but some politicians were grandfathered in.) He pushed for an ethanol plant and helped sponsor legislation for the family/spouses of firefighters and police officers who die in the line of duty along with many other laws including the Family Leave Act in NJ and the creation of a school serving only special-needs students.
State Assemblyman John Burzichelli was the former mayor of Paulsboro. He jumped on the bandwagon of 'pitch the blame', yet it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that an over hundred-year-old bridge than has at least three trains a day rolling over it and has displayed a problem before 'might' have needed some serious consideration while he was in office?
Somehow these things never occur to these political powers WHILE they are in office. After a disaster, however, they are quick to begin the spin and pass-the-buck routines.
And then we have the railroad itself. It seems that like government and banks, they are to 'police' themselves. Of course, they too, never see the need to check all this out.
The way I figure it, we have a clear case of: "If it ain't broke, why fix it" here with enough blame game to go round.
There are railroad tracks at the end of my street. Freight trains run back and forth constantly. There is a lot of interest in using an existing rail line for light rail transportation from Camden, NJ, to Glassboro, NJ (with a future interest in running it down to Atlantic City). Glassboro is the home of Rowan University and proponents argue that we need safe, easy, low-cost transportation that can get people from Philadelphia to Camden to Glassboro. This case is being considered by the Delaware River Port Authority and PATCO. There have been numerous studies and studies of studies. A major concern is funding as NJ Transit would gain but the DRPA (which controls the major toll bridges from Philadelphia/Delaware to NJ) has been frustrated by opponents and the absence of money and the continuation of various studies with no real movement as to its creation. This light rail line would use existing freight rails that have been in existence for many years. It will cut through various small towns some of whose residents are 'pro' line and others who are vocal opponents. Currently there is another environmental impact study taking place. According to the latest information, construction for PART of the light rail line would take approximately five years IF they get financing.
A similar line, the Trenton-Camden Light Rail system (which was built to move people in the Burlington/Trenton/Camden area) as suffered from low ridership. This was promoted by Senator C. William Haines and has been consistently held up as a way NOT to undertake a transportation project.
As a 'Jersey girl' (but one from the poorer southern end of New Jersey, I can tell you that