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Paulsboro Residents Demand Answers From Conrail, Health Experts

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By Elizabeth Hur

PAULSBORO, N.J. (CBS) – For the first time, we heard the frantic calls for help after the toxic train derailment in Paulsboro, Gloucester County.

The recordings were released on Tuesday just hours before residents got another chance to ask questions about the cleanup.

Round two for Paulsboro residents may not have been as chaotic or disorganized as the first meeting last week, but it still got heated at times.

Residents demanded answers from a panel of experts from Conrail to the Coast Guard and the Health Department who did their best to calm the rattled nerves.

Joe Eldridge, Director of the NJ Department of Health explained, “All the levels came back fine. It’s fine to re-enter the schools which are open today.”

U.S. Coast Guard Captain Kathy Moore added, “Today the breached rail car is no longer on the bridge. Now it’s off the bridge, it’s on a barge, it’s safe and away.”

The meeting, the second since the November 30th derailment, came on the same day authorities released portions of the 911 call recordings from that morning, including one from Paulsboro Assistant Fire Chief Gary Stevenson, who spoke to Eyewitness News exclusively just last week:

“Stevenson: A train, it’s spewing out all kinds of gas. It derailed in Mantua Creek.
Operator: Okay.
Stevenson: The bridge collapsed.
Operator: Is everyone okay?
Stevenson: The engine’s not in but the train is over. We have a tank car leaking something into the water.

Another Caller: I guess a train blew up on the tracks down here.
Operator: Okay.
Caller: By the river, something’s leaking
Operator: Do you have any idea what it is?
Caller: I don’t know. I couldn’t breathe.”

Back at the meeting, authorities maintained progress is being made and the area is safe for students and residents but the people we talked to weren’t buying it.

Sylvia Epps of Paulsboro said, “Just making up any excuses so you don’t keep asking the same thing over and over again. So, I’m leaving. I’m disgusted.”

Barb Zammarrelli of Paulsboro said, “Nothing’s getting answered. Nothing. They don’t know. So how can they answer us if they don’t know. It’s frustrating.”

Melinda Taylor of Paulsboro added, “Everything we asked, they’d say, ‘Oh we’re not qualified to answer those questions, we have to get other people qualified to answer those questions’, it didn’t make sense at all.”

Mildred Yake of Paulsboro concluded, “What are they going to do for us? Nothing because half of them don’t know what they’re talking about.”

Officials say, for the time being, anyone with additional questions can hopefully find their answers here: http://www.paulsbororesponse.com or call: 1-800-230-7049

Also, the Community Assistance Center currently located at Paulsboro Fire Department is moving on Monday to: 541A Mantua Avenue.

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