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Train operated by Norfolk Southern; probe is running

Train operated by Norfolk Southern;  probe is running

Authorities were responding to a freight train derailment Thursday in southeastern Michigan, the latest incident as communities in Arizona and Ohio grappled with the aftermath of collisions involving hazardous materials.

Emergency crews were on the scene in the community of Van Buren, where about 30 Norfolk Southern Railway carriages went off the rails Thursday morning. The derailment led to temporary road closures, which are expected to reopen by evening, the local public security department said on Facebook.

The community is approximately 30 miles west of downtown Detroit.

While an investigation into the derailment is underway, Van Buren Municipality Public Safety said there were no reports of injuries and there were no hazardous materials on board the overturned portion of the train.

“There is no evidence of exposed hazardous materials. There are also no reported injuries,” the Facebook post said.

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, D-Ann Arbor, said on Twitter that the US Environmental Protection Agency responding to the derailment found that the majority of the derailed cars were empty and one car carrying hazardous material had not derailed.

The derailed cars are currently being put back on the tracks, Dingell added.

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Derailment comes after Ohio incident

The Michigan derailment comes about two weeks after another train derailment in Norfolk Southern carrying hazardous materials near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border prompted evacuations and environmental and health concerns.

The rail operator was under investigation for its response to the Ohio derailment. Several lawsuits have been filed against Norfolk Southern for alleged negligence, and local residents who were exposed to the dangerous chemicals from the derailment have raised safety concerns.

What did emergency services find?

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes (EGLE) dispatched responders to the scene and released updates on their finds.

  • One of the overturned wagons contained agricultural products, the other wagons were empty.
  • No hazardous material was released to land or water.
  • One car contained liquid chlorine but was outside the toppled section and was among the first cars removed.
  • Norfolk Southern is on site using equipment to remove and erect the wagons.

Video from the scene of the derailment in Van Buren Township showed that numerous carriages on the Norfolk Southern Train had veered off the tracks.

Norfolk Southern the subject of public outrage

Norfolk Southern Corp., an Atlanta-based transportation company, has been under public scrutiny since its train derailed near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border on Feb. 3, spilling toxic chemicals. The derailment prompted evacuations and residents have concerns about their air, soil and water quality.

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro said Norfolk Southern failed to “adhere to accepted standards of practice related to incident management” and prioritized an “accelerated” reopening of the railroad line over safety.

In 2014, a derailment in Casselton, North Dakota, spilled nearly 500,000 gallons of crude oil and caused $13.5 million in damage, prompting the Obama administration to push for a new safety regulation to protect the transportation of hazardous materials, prevent environmental disasters and save lives.

Norfolk Southern industry lobbyists opposed efforts to create the new safety rule, which was scrapped in 2018 over cost concerns. Workers’ representatives and industry experts have said efforts to reduce the cost of railway regulations have only made trains less safe.

Featuring: Tami Abdollah and Terry Collins, USA TODAY; Jennie Key and Victoria Moorwood, USA TODAY Network; The Associated Press

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