Four years after Paulsboro train accident, railroads agree to federal emergency protocols

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Workers secure lines around a train tank car as they prepare to pull it up with a crane from a crash site on a small bridge on the Mantua Creek

Workers secure lines around a train tank car as they prepare to pull it up with a crane from a crash site on a small bridge on the Mantua Creek

Lessons learned from the 2012 Contrail train derailment in Paulsboro, New Jersey, have spurred clearer emergency protocols.

Just over four years ago, a train accident and subsequent vinyl chloride spill forced evacuations in Paulsboro — and created widespread consternation.  

There was confusion between the railroad emergency guidelines and the federal protocols for the response, said U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross.  Now railroads have agreed to follow federal rules.

“What this means is that there are clear uniform standards that they can trust, whether you are the public that lives along the thousands of miles of rails in the country or you are the first responder going to an accident,” he said.

Norcross said Wednesday he can’t believe it took four years for the resolution. And he said he and his colleagues in Washington will continue to push for improved railroad safety.

“The fact that we had to go to these measures to insure public safety of those in Paulsboro and the first responders is indicative the idea is that we have to update all our standards,” he said.

The Conrail freight train derailed while crossing a bridge over Mantua Creek. Seven of the 82 cars went off the tracks. Four cars fell into the creek, and one spilled about 20,000 gallons of vinyl chloride, a human carcinogen.

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