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PAULSBORO, N.J. — An 84-car Conrail freight train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed Friday morning, Nov 30, after an old-style swing rail bridge collapsed sending the railcars into Mantua Creek below and releasing toxic chemicals into the air.

A Conrail train derailed and caused a hazardous chemical spill following a bridge collapse over the Mantua Creek in Paulsboro, NJ on November 30, 2012.

The U.S. Coast Guard said that five tankers from the freight train were carrying vinyl chloride when they fell into the Mantua Creek, which feeds into the Delaware River near Philadelphia.

Map showing location of Conrail train derailment and bridge collapse over the Mantua Creek in Paulsboro, NJ on November 30, 2012 that caused a hazardous chemical spill.

State Assemblyman, John Burzichell, told the media at a press conference that at least one of the tanker cars that contained vinyl chloride has since dissipated. He said the rail bridge, which is a swing bridge, apparently buckled, similar to a derailment that occurred in 2009 following an accident that derailed 16 cars carrying coal. The bridge was rebuilt in 2010.

The EPA lists Vinyl Chloride on it’s air toxics web site as a Group A human carcinogen used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic and vinyl products. It is “extremely flammable” in a fire and can cause frostbite on contact according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health. It has a sweet smell.

The EPA says short term exposure to high levels of vinyl chloride in the air has an effect on the central nervous system including dizziness, drowsiness, and headaches.

Over a dozen people were taken to the hospital for examination after complaining of breathing problems from the accident.

People in three southern New Jersey towns were told to stay inside. Emergency management officials issued the advisory to residents of Paulsboro, West Deptford and East Greenwich Township as a precaution, according to media reports.

The incident remains under investigation.

Posted by Gordon, Elias & Seely, a FELA lawyer and New Jersey railroad injury lawyer who publishes train accidents and FELA legal news from across the United States.

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