Superstorm Sandy brought new environmental hazards and concerns about New Jersey’s infrastructure. Now a toxic chemical accident in South Jersey has called even more attention to these issues.
The accident occurred at approximately 7 a.m. Friday when a rail bridge over Mantua Creek in Paulsboro, N.J. collapsed as a freight train was crossing. The Gloucester County Times reports that three tanks of flammable vinyl chloride dumped into the creek that links to the Delaware River near Philadelphia. Seven cars in total are said to have derailed.
The accident led to a multi-agency response, from local authorities to the U.S. Coast Guard.
“Initially, there was a release of gas into the air that affected some nearby residents and people working in that area,” said Larry Ragonese, a DEP spokesman, according to Reuters.
Fox also reports that local schools were put on lockdown and residents in three towns were told to stay indoors. 18 patients treated at a local hospital said they had difficulty breathing. The EPA told Fox that short-term exposure to high levels of vinyl chloride can also cause drowsiness and dizziness.
The cause of the derailment remains unclear at this time, but the Gloucester County Times reports that the same bridge collapsed in 2009 under the weight of a 50-ton coal train.
"Most of the danger has passed," reports officials via CNN. But it could be days before a crane large enough to lift the train makes its way to the scene of the accident.