Did Norfolk Southern have to blow up chemicals in East Palestine? Survey says not likely.
New evidence shows the cars of vinyl chloride were not under threat of spotaneous detonation.
Just the news for this edition. If you need me over the weekend, no you don’t!
Big news today. New evidence indicates Norfolk Southern may not have had to blow up the rail cars in East Palestine – and they likely knew that at the time.
The rail cars of vinyl chloride were cooling down hours before the vent and burn and had leveled off in temperature by the time of the detonation.
You’ll remember the rush to burn these chemicals. We were told at the time that the threat of an uncontrolled explosion due to “runaway polymerization”, where the cars uncontrollably heat themselves from a chemical reaction, was imminent.
The urgency was real at the time.
Here’s a temperature graph of the most concerning car. The time span is from the evening of Sunday the 5th, to the vent and burn on the evening of Monday the 6th. Notice how the temperature leveled off by early Monday morning.
That’s also when four additional cars of vinyl chloride were added to the list just hours before the burn, bringing the total vinyl chloride burned to 885,000 pounds. The four cars added never did reach a concerning temperature threshold, but were burned anyway.
Mike DeWine: “The railroad has a serious concern which they can express to you about an explosion with one or more of these cars. They describe an explosion as potentially catastrophic.”
Testimony shows how insistent Norfolk Southern was that the cars be detonated to avoid a runaway reaction.
Randy Padfield, Director, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency: “We asked the rail company, Norfolk Southern has their individuals there, what other alternative plans have you thought through at that point in time?
We were told by Norfolk Southern that they are the experts. They have over 200 years of experience on the scene in their personnel doing this, and this is the only option.
But it turns out that the vinyl chloride manufacturer, Oxy Vinyls, LP, penned a letter cautioning against jumping to conclusions about polymerization (source: Group D, Exhibit 13) explaining that:
“Based on the information available to Oxy Vinyls to date, the VCM railcars did not exhibit these conditions, and we have seen no information that would confirm that runaway polymerization was taking place.”
We also know that officials were talking to the chemical company before the burn.
This data, that shows the cars cooling, and well under the threshold of a runaway reaction according to the company that made them, is the same data they had when they came up with the plan to vent and burn the cars.
Mike DeWine: “we've also been in consultation with the manufacturer of the product.”
It undercuts the only reason we were told that these cars must be blown up. It undercuts the only reason that East Palestine made the news. And it leaves a gigantic void in the story.
If the cars weren’t close to exploding, then why was East Palestine put through all this?
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