PORT READING – Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac has requested a federal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the derailment of a Conrail freight train that forced approximately 100 Port Reading residents to evacuate their homes Sunday.
Shortly before 5 p.m. Sunday, eight Conrail freight cars jumped the track near Port Reading Avenue and overturned. Three of the cars had been carrying the flammable substance vinyl acetate, but they were empty at the time of the derailment, according to Walter Hanks, the township’s director of emergency management.
No injuries were reported, but Woodbridge police evacuated residents from about 40 homes on Renewal Way, Carteret Avenue and 1st and 2nd streets to Port Reading School No. 9 on Turner Street, according to township officials. Port Reading Avenue was also closed as a precaution. After about two and a half hours, residents were able to return to their homes once officials determined that there was no leakage of hazardous chemicals.
McCormac criticized the freight company for failing to provide emergency responders with access to train manifest documents and Material Safety Data Sheets.
In a letter to the federal National Transportation Safety Board, McCormac wrote, “As a result of the outright refusal of Conrail authorities at the scene to provide the Material Safety Data Sheets and train manifest documents and/or information regarding the contents of the three derailed tank cars, emergency responders were greatly hampered in their deployment of appropriate emergency response equipment and, more importantly, public safety was jeopardized in the wake of the evacuation of more than 40 homes and hundreds of area residents.”
The mayor is demanding that Conrail and/or other responsible parties reimburse the township for the costs of responding to the derailment.
The train cars were righted and removed Monday morning. The cause of the derailment was still being investigated, according to Conrail officials.
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