By Robin Rieger
PAULSBORO, N.J. (CBS) – Students leave Paulsboro high school after a full day of classes. Traffic in town seems to be at its normal pace. But almost five weeks after the train derailment and vinyl chloride leak that kept people in their homes or forced evacuations, many are trying to recoup what they say the derailment cost them.
Phil Weiss says a week of reduced hours and no customers hurt the bottom line at his family’s hardware store.
“We just got our numbers back for December and we were down 25 percent in sales,” Weiss said.
He hasn’t put in a claim yet to Conrail’s family assistance center in town, but Fastenal general manager Jerry McMyne says they did. He says a weeklong evacuation cost them about $10,000.
“We’re a small business, we struggle to survive at times, you know. We are on commission, it affected our pay,” said McMyne.
“It wasn’t until I came upstairs that I could smell the sweet smell but I could taste it,” said Jill Swindell- Filiaggi. She says she worries about the impact on her health following the release of the chemical she says she detected at her home blocks away from the derailment. She was never evacuated.
“I did not feel as though I was safe, nor did I feel there was a glass wall that protected me from any of this,” she said.
She’s one of 54 people who filed lawsuits against Conrail through Attorney Mark Cuker and his partners. He says they have another roughly 350 people who they still are meeting with.
On Thursday Conrail says its workers were installing a new footwalk on the span that was repaired and locked. Train traffic is moving again. State Assemblyman John Burzichelli says he will press for a new span.
“Clearly a bridge that has components from 1873 has no place in a rail line that carries the kinds of materials it does,” said Burzichelli.
He says the state can’t force Conrail to put in a new bridge but he they will have to keep up the public pressure.