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Derailed Train Causes Toxic Spill in New Jersey

180,000 pounds of vinyl chloride dumped into Delaware River tributary

- Common Dreams staff

Photo by Andrew Burton / AP

A derailed Conrail freight train has spilled hazardous chemicals into a Delaware River tributary Friday morning. The U.S. Coast Guard is reporting a collapsed rail bridge dumped five tanks cars carrying vinyl chloride into Mantua Creek in Paulsboro, New Jersey.

Conrail spokesperson John Enright estimates that at least 180,000 pounds of the chemical were released into the creek while the Coast Guard was notified that the chemical might be leaking into the nearby Delaware River.

Vinyl chloride is a colorless gas that is easily ignited, used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic and vinyl products. The EPA lists the gas as a Group A human carcinogen and short-term exposure can impact the central nervous system potentially causing drowsiness, dizziness and headaches.

At least 16 people have been admitted to the hospital for respiratory distress.

Authorities evacuated a half-mile area around the spill and closed down the waterway, Reuters reports.

Though local residents were immediately urged to stay indoors with windows and doors closed, Assemblyman John Burzichelli is reportedly saying that the air is now safe and residents are free to move about.

RT reports there is additional risk that more chemicals will be released into the air when the train is moved.

Images from the scene show cars from the the 84-car train plunging into the creek; a shiny slick can be seen on the water.

Photo by Mel Evans / AP

Photo by Rae Lynn Stevenson

Photo by Mel Evans / AP

Photo by Chopper 10