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Lingering Odor Concerns Some Paulsboro Residents

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By Robin Rieger

PAULSBORO, N.J. (CBS) — A bit of a cloud lingers in Paulsboro, New Jersey following the train derailment in November that caused the release of toxic vinyl chloride. (see related story). It’s called fear, and it prompted numerous residents to call 911 about an odor that started Monday night and lingered in the air on Tuesday.

“Almost like a propane, like a gas,” said Paulsboro resident Danielle Schwear.” It was nauseating, it was gross.”

Residents received a recorded call from Fire Chief Alfonso Giampola explaining that an odor was being investigated.

“We have the D.E.P. that’s in town, and along with the refineries help, we are monitoring the town, doing air quality levels to make sure there are no levels of anything,” said Giampola. “There’s been no word that a refinery has released anything.”

The fire chief says nothing dangerous was detected, but one woman went to the hospital and 30 high school students left classes early complaining of sickness. He says the train derailment clearly left its mark.

“I think people’s nerves are just a little edgy,” says Giampola, who adds with the refineries, odors in Paulsboro are not unusual.

Marge Ronczka visited a new law firm on Tuesday that represents victims affected by the derailment. (see related story). She and Florine Fonville say they aren’t sure if they should sue Conrail or sign a release promising not to sue in exchange for a payout. Amounts reportedly range from $5,00 to $2,500.

“I don’t know that I was damaged,” Ronczka says. “I did have one day I couldn’t breathe because I was outside all day.”

“I’m going to talk to the doctor to see what’s up,” says Fonville. “Its not about the money, it’s about what effects does this stuff have in the long-term.”

They’re also concerned a lawsuit could take years. Conrail won’t comment on the number for claims settled or the dollar amounts, but it has two centers open in Paulsboro to assist residents.

As of mid -December, there have been more than 1,000 meetings at the assistance center, 780 assistance hotline calls answered, and 1,160 hotel rooms provided, according to Conrail.

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