WEST DEPTFORD, N.J. – A toxic chemical involved in the recent train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio was ultimately headed for South Jersey, where residents experienced a similar disaster in 2012 when a train derailed in Paulsboro and spilled 20,000 gallons of vinyl chloride into Mantua Creek. Residents here are still suffering from the health and environmental consequences of that derailment, says Assemblywoman Beth Sawyer, who wants to shield them from the negative impacts associated with the 18-mile Glassboro-Camden rail line.
“The Ohio train derailment served as a grim reminder for residents of Gloucester County who have headaches, nausea and lifelong health problems from the exposure to toxic chemicals following the 2012 Paulsboro incident. And now we know the Ohio train’s toxic freight was destined for a South Jersey plant. More rail lines will just put more residents at risk,” Sawyer (R-Gloucester) said.
The New York Times examined shipping data released by the Environmental Protection Agency confirming that much of the Ohio train’s vinyl chloride freight was on its way to a plant in Pedricktown that makes plastic used in PVC flooring. The vinyl chloride involved in the Paulsboro derailment was also destined for the same plant.
“I support responsible rail shipping and mass transit, but I refuse to needlessly subject South Jersey residents to more harm,” Sawyer added.
Along with retired engineer Charles Hughes and anti-GCL activist Tony Alveario, Sawyer examined the environmental and social impacts of the Glassboro-Camden line earlier this year. They note that existing Conrail freight line will need to be replaced during the project to accommodate the GCL passenger rails.
“Ripping up the old rail lines will cause chemicals to leak into our water, destroy our nature trails and hurt our communities,” Sawyer said. “There are safer ways to connect residents to where they need to go without putting a diesel train in their backyard.”
Instead, in this age of on-demand transportation, Sawyer wants to see support for the Bus Rapid Transit system, a cleaner and more convenient way to connect South Jersey communities. A proposed line would run along major highway routes, connecting Camden and Philadelphia to numerous points throughout Gloucester County.
“It is my duty to protect my constituents and be a voice for South Jersey. We don’t want or need the GCL’s proposed route or its negative societal and environmental impacts.”