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Petroleum Spill Clean-up Underway in North Dakota After 70-Car Train Derails

The incident comes amid increased concern about the condition of the nation's train tracks

A train carrying hazardous materials through North Dakota derailed around 11 PM on March 26. 

The incident occurred near Wyndmere in Richland County.

Early reports state 31 of the 70 cars derailed. Several cars leaked petroleum, which is used in the production of asphalt. Other cars were transporting salt. While the petroleum is flammable, the materials are expected to solidify into a gel form because of the area’s cold weather and snowfall. 

The train is operated by Canadian Pacific Railways. A spokesman for the company said there is no threat to public safety and no one was injured, per KFGO. Hazardous materials experts from the company were on the scene shortly after the wreck.

Emergency personnel responding to the scene closed nearby roads. Clean-up efforts are expected to take 7 to 10 days, per Fox News.

A large-scale train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio in February ignited national awareness of the consequences of transportation disasters in America. Approximately 50 cars of the train operated by Norfolk Southern were also transporting hazardous materials, including vinyl chloride. Officials reportedly held a controlled burn to get rid of the substance out of concern that the cars could explode if left unattended. Residents of the area were evacuated and have expressed concerns about the long-term effects of the chemical leaks. 

Vinyl chloride exposure is linked to an increased risk of certain cancers.

Data from the Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics indicates that, on average, 1,705 trains derail in the U.S. each year. A total of 54,570 trains derailed between 1990 and 2021. 

“About 60% of all rail accidents occur in yards where there are more complex operations and lower speeds that tend to cause minimal damage,” said Jessica Kahanek, a spokesperson for the Association of American Railroads, told USA Today. “More than half of those are caused by human factors or human error.”

The East Palestine derailment prompted increased awareness about the state of the nation’s transportation infrastructure and speculation about Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s proficiency.

The Navy veteran and former mayor of South Bend, Indiana waited two and a half weeks after the East Palestine derailment to visit the impacted community.

There’s now a growing push for tougher safety regulations, including a new bipartisan proposal in Congress aimed at improving rail safety,” reports USA Today. “Railroad workers say large freight railroads have been skimping on maintenance, repairs and staffing in order to squeeze out higher profits.”

Since the February incident, trains have derailed in Massachusetts, Alabama, Illinois, Washington, Texas, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.

There are approximately 140,000 miles of train rails across the county that are used to ship raw materials and other goods each day.

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