The freight train derailment on Friday, November 30, that sent 4 tank cars carrying toxic vinyl chloride into the Mantua Creek in Paulsboro New Jersey, has raised serious questions about railroad safety, regulations regarding the shipment of hazardous materials, and the responsibilities of freight railroads to maintain and inspect their rail lines. It is likely that a combination of factors is to blame for the accident including human error, aging infrastructure and cost-saving measures by the railroad. As a result of the accident, more than 70 people were sent to the hospital and hundreds of residents were evacuated from their homes. The Coast Guard said last Thursday that it had removed all traces of vinyl chloride from the tanker and that as of Tuesday it had not detected the chemical in the atmosphere, but concerns still remain about air quality in the area. In this hour of Radio Times will ask if this train derailment was avoidable and what lessons it offers for the future as we increasingly rely on the freight railroad system throughout the U.S.? Joining us to answer questions about this accident and the safety and regulation of freight railroads are Philadelphia Inquirer reporter PAUL NUSSBAUM and Penn State professor PETER SWAN.
AP Photo/Cliff Owen