Ohio Train Derailment


Ellie Geppert

Over a month ago, a Norfolk Southern train carrying toxic chemicals derailed in a town in eastern Ohio. The effects of the chemical spill have ravaged the small community of East Palestine since the derailment on February 3rd. 


The accident was caused by an overheated wheel, which was a result of failed wheel bearing, according to chemical engineer Jeff Witherall


 “The bearing is the part that makes it turn without friction. When they start to fail, they get hot because of the friction increasing.” 


Norfolk Southern, the railroad involved, has temperature sensors located along their tracks which alerted to the overheating wheel. However, the application of the emergency brakes further increased the heat of the wheel.


 “They could have inspected the trains more often, which was happening until recent deregulation” said Witherall when asked about how this could have been prevented. 


While the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was not activated to aid relief efforts in Ohio, political science teacher Dr. Brandon Hentze says that it is usually a part of recovery after disasters at the federal level.


 “The federal government has FEMA, which was created to provide disaster relief,” Dr. Hentze said. “However, it can only go into states when requested by the state government, so it’s usually a partnership between the state and federal government.” 


Since February 3rd, there has been a second derailment of a Norfolk Southern train near Springfield, Ohio. Luckily, the second train, which derailed on the evening of March 5th,  was not carrying toxic chemicals.


 Little information has been released about the cause of the March derailment. Most recently, the state of Ohio has filed a lawsuit against Norfolk Southern Railroad, primarily for the February 3rd incident. Cleanup and recovery efforts continue in East Palestine. This is a developing story.