North Dakota Derailment Results in Shelter-in-Place Notice

North Dakota Derailment Results in Shelter-in-Place Notice

( – North Dakota officials issued a shelter-in-place notice on July 7 following a train derailment. Air monitors detected anhydrous ammonia at the remote site as a railcar was being moved, but no injury or impact has yet been reported. The shelter-in-place was issued in the morning but removed later the same day when air monitoring showed normal levels.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that exposure to anhydrous ammonia can have profound health implications, including mouth swelling, throat and stomach burns, lung damage, and sight loss. Less severe symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.

Authorities in the Peace Garden State dispatched the shelter-in-place notice after 29 rail cars derailed in a rural area around 140 miles from Fargo. The incident sparked a blaze that firefighters brought under control by Sunday afternoon. Reports indicate that the train was transporting anhydrous ammonia, methanol, and plastic pellets, prompting the warning.

Train derailments are not entirely uncommon in the United States. In 2023, The Miami Herald reported that according to The Federal Railroad Administration, there are around 1,000 derailments annually.

While train derailments have reportedly been on the decline over the last half a decade and fatalities are rare, one incident seems to have brought the issue into the spotlight last year. A Norfolk Southern train derailed in the town of East Palestine, OH back in February 2023 and is believed to have released hazardous chemicals into the air. Additionally, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources estimated at the time that the incident may have caused the deaths of tens of thousands of aquatic animals. Mary Mertz, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, stated that it was believed over 43,000 fish, crustaceans, amphibians, and other marine animals died across an area of around five miles.

In the aftermath, Norfolk Southern agreed to pay a settlement of more than $300 million in compensation after several East Palestine residents were forced to leave their homes. The company paid out after settling a $600 million class action lawsuit. The agreement furthermore obliged Norfolk Southern to fund long-term environmental monitoring in the region.

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