PAULSBORO, N.J. (CBS) — The long wait to return home began slowly coming to an end on Friday for residents of Paulsboro, New Jersey who were forced to evacuate as a result of the train derailment that caused vinyl chloride to leak from a ruptured tanker.
Officials started home-by-home air quality checks within the evacuation zone. The process was initiated because for more than 24 hours no vinyl chloride had been detected in the air in and around the evacuation zone.
Air quality experts were available to accompany residents to their homes to test for vinyl chloride. If the tests were negative, residents were permitted to return home.
“Our priority has been and continues to be the safety of Paulsboro residents,” said Capt. Kathy Moore, the Coast Guard incident commander. “To initiate this mandatory process, residents must check in at the Community Assistance Center. We have created this process to afford every resident the opportunity for face-to-face expert confirmation that the air in their home is free of detectable levels of vinyl chloride.”
People living in ten homes along the railroad tracks were still on the outside looking in Friday evening. When those residents would be able to return was unknown.
Most of the residents permitted to go home were grateful to get back to something approaching a normal life, although many were still openly questioning how things were handled.
“If half of Paulsboro was evacuated, all of Paulsboro should be evacuated,” said resident Dawn Wright, “because we all breathe the same air.”
The National Transportation Safety Board announced earlier in the day that it had completed its work, a week after the November 30th derailment.
The NTSB expected to have a preliminary report completed in two weeks.