By David Madden
PAULSBORO, N.J. (CBS) — Three local congressmen met with officials dealing with the Conrail derailment in Paulsboro, New Jersey that has left hundreds of residents evacuated, the whole town is in an uproar, and no one is quite sure when things will get back to normal.
Rob Andrews, joined by Frank LoBiondo and Pat Meehan, came away from their meeting on Thursday morning convinced that everything is being done to get rid of the vinyl chloride safely and get people in their homes again. There is no timetable for when that will happen. Part of the problem is that too many people are calling the shots, according to Andrews.
“When everyone is in charge, no one is in charge, and the incident command structure has left a lot to be desired,” Andrews says. “I’m not criticizing the people. I’m criticizing the incident command.”
Crews began removing the chemical from the breached tank on Sunday, ran into a problem, and then resumed Wednesday morning and completed that evening. A thorough cleaning was performed at 7:40 a.m. on Thursday to eliminate any remaining liquid from the breached rail car. A barge is being moved into place and other tankers carrying vinyl chloride will have be checked and then moved out by the barge.
At some point, there must be a 24-hour window of air quality readings deemed free of the chemical. Only then can people come back, but no one can say when that clock begins to tick.
Rob Andrews wants some questions answered once everyone is safely back in their homes.
“The first is, how did this accident occur? How did a train go through this red light,” he says. “And then second is, what kind of incident command should have been set up here? What kind of communications should have been going on here so that the very real nightmare that these community members have lived through never happens to someone again?”