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Hazardous Chemicals on the Railroads
A Process Safety Issue
This week the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) conducted hearings into the derailment that occurred in February of this year in East Palestine, Ohio. The following was the agenda for the hearing.
Hazard Communications and Emergency Responder Preparedness for the Initial Emergency Response
Circumstances that Led to the Decision to Vent and Burn Five Vinyl Chloride Tank Cars
Freight Car Bearing Failure Modes and Wayside Detection Systems
Tank Car Derailment Damage, Crashworthiness, and Hazardous Materials Package Information
All of these items are of interest to the process safety community, but the second one — the decision to vent and burn the contents of the five vinyl chloride tank cars — was particularly interesting. The NTSB has published a four-and-a-half-minute video of the event. There is not a dull moment in it.
The video states that the emergency responders decided to intentionally ignite the contents of the tank cars that still contained vinyl chloride because the unloading valves were damaged and inoperable. This is one of the many process safety issues that this incident highlights — when is it best for the emergency responders to deliberately ignite a spill of flammable chemicals?
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