Evacuations have extended to at least next Saturday in the aftermath of the train derailment in Paulsboro. The announcement was made today during a press conference. Unified command members made the decision to extend the evacuation period to ensure the continued safety of the public, according to officials.
Federal investigators say Conrail crews studied reported signal problems at a Paulsboro, New Jersey railroad bridge the day before a derailment that caused a toxic chemical leak.
The derailment Friday sent dozens of people to a hospital. More than 100 remain out of their homes Sunday amid evacuation orders.
Officials say there are still rail cars holding vinyl chloride and potential hazards remain. Evacuation area boundaries remain at the following locations:
- Railroad Avenue (North)
- E. Broad/Crown Point Road (South)
- Mantua Creek (East)
- North Delaware Street (West)
On Sunday the U.S. Coast Guard announced a 3-phase plan for cleanup.
- Empty the vinyl chloride out of the breached tanker (which crews did today)
- Clear debris from area and allow NTSB in to access it
- Bring in a crane from New York City to get remaining tanker cars out
Officials continue to investigate the cause of the derailment. The joint investigation, which began Saturday, is being conducted by the U.S Coast Guard, NJ Department of Environmental Protection, NJ Office of Emergency Management, Paulsboro Township police and fire departments, and representatives from Conrail. The National Transportation Safety Board is focusing on signal problems at the swing-arm bridge over a creek in Paulsboro.
NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman says Conrail crews had been having trouble getting a “go” signal in recent days. Sensors on the bridge control the signal.
Hersman says the crew involved in the crash Friday examined the tracks and got permission from a dispatcher to proceed when they could not get a green light.
Conrail, which owns and operates the bridge, says it is cooperating with the NTSB.
Emergency officials were back in Paulsboro, New Jersey Sunday to determine the exact cause of the train derailment and chemical spill, which sickened 71 people and forced more than 100 people from their homes.
Officials say they want to try and pump vinyl chloride out of a damaged tanker. They also plan to use a crane to remove the derailed cars.
“It's important for us to get access to the site because we want to thoroughly access the wreckage, document the condition of the bridge, the track, the condition of those cars. we know the breached car, the hole was caused by a puncture by another tank car. We want to make sure we understand how the tank car failed and how the pileup occurred. It will be important for us to get on scene to document, but we have good tools to do that once the scene is safe,” said Hersman during a news conference Sunday morning.
Evacuation orders are still in place for 106 residents who were ordered to leave their homes when the disaster occurred Friday morning. They will remain in effect until at least Saturday, December 8. Residents not staying at area hotels were directed to the Paulsboro Fire Department located at 1502 Swedesboro Avenue where a family assistance center has been set up. The number for assistance and information is (800) 230-7049.
Students and staff at the Guardian Angels Regional School's Paulsboro campus are being asked to report to the Gibbstown Campus Monday and Tuesday, according the school's website. The Guardian Angels School and Head Start Center will remain closed through Friday. All Paulsboro public schools will be open. Active air monitoring will be conducted throughout the day to ensure air quality remains safe.
The Gateway Communications Center will be closed for the week. Municipal Courts will be cancelled Monday. Local law enforcement officials will make notifications to all those affected.
City and county have several systems in place to reach out and inform the public about changes to the evacuation area. The public is asked to stay alert to the local media and the existing public alert systems for updates to the evacuation area and other important information.