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Train Derailment Concerns Linger in West Deptford

One resident speaks out about the timeliness of the township's response, while others praise fire and emergency personnel for their efforts.

It happened more than a week ago and in a neighboring town, but the Paulsboro train derailment is still very much on the minds of West Deptford residents.

The Nov. 30 derailment over Mantua Creek released dangerous vinyl chloride into the air, prompting evacuations of hundreds of Paulsboro residents. Although the incident largely had little to no impact on West Deptford, it remained a topic of conversation at recent public meetings.

West Deptford residents—particularly near the White Swan Trailer Park, just a mile from the derailment—have anxiously awaited the results of air tests carried out near the site of the vinyl chloride spill.

At Thursday night's township committee meeting, Police Chief Craig Mangano said that, so far, testing has shown no risk for residents in the area. As of Monday afternoon, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had not provided the official test results to West Deptford Patch.

“So far we've had very minimal impact from the event,” said Mangano.

A resident of White Swan, Josephine Daws, spoke during the public comment portion of Thursday's meeting, upset that it took the township five hours to send out a letter to the residents of the trailer park about the incident. The letter advised residents of White Swan and White Swan East to stay in their homes.

"This is like a pony express way to deliver news," Daws said.

Officials said they wanted to provide accurate information to residents before releasing anything. All of the information had to go through the appropriate chain of command first, Township Administrator Eric Campo explained.

At the township's Emergency Services Coordinating Council meeting on Monday night, Phil Zimm echoed those sentiments. He is chief of Thorofare Volunteer Fire Company and president of the Gloucester County Fire Chiefs Association.

“There were no facts until three to four hours into it that then filtered down to us,” said Zimm. “(Daws) considered it a delay, we consider it having the facts. It wasn't going to come out faster.”

Paulsboro residents have railed against communication breakdowns following the derailment and chemical leak, though those incidents didn’t have a significant impact on West Deptford. Overall, residents seem pleased with the response of West Deptford's fire departments and emergency personnel. Mayor Raymond Chintall recognized this on Thursday, saying, “Residents of West Deptford are being well-served by our employees.”

The hard work was recognized on Monday night as well. During his portion of the emergency services council meeting, Emergency Management Coordinator Joe Gill thanked the fire chiefs for the swift response and hard work in lending a hand to Paulsboro to help deal with the situation. Gill has provided daily command post briefings on the situation as it pertains to West Deptford.

While most evacuated Paulsboro residents could return home this week, the train derailment case is far from over. For one, the train cars are still in the creek.

Mike Nahas, a citizen-at-large on the emergency services council, asked whether West Deptford and surrounding towns will have extra personnel available in case of a major accident while removing the remaining cars from the water. Zimm responded that the command center is monitoring the cleanup, but said that all of the firehouses will be ready if major issues arise that affect West Deptford residents.

Correction: A previous version of this article said that Chuck Weikel made a statement as a citizen-at-large during Monday's emergency services council meeting. The statement was actually made by Mike Nahas.

JOSEPHINE DAWS December 20, 2012 at 12:25 PM
why don't you get the story straight one: I never kept harping..my main purpose of attending the township meeting was to point out that I received notification5 hrs later. and that in today's technology a better means of communication should be in use. the schools have a automatic telephone communication to the students parents . other towns use the same type of communictions for emergencies to alert residents. I do have a computer , but was not working. you failed to mention the telephone calls we rec. from the County stated: All Paulsboro residents stay indoors keep doors and windows closed, nothing about W.D. residents, a simple sentence could of been added to the message pertaining to W.D. residents. I never said the police Dept., or the Fire Dept did not do a good job, they did a good of a job as they could for the resources they have, bottom line need better resources. W.D. has 2 highways going thru, 295 and the turnpike which oil tankers, tractor trailer and such travel, we have several chemical plants and refineries....time the Townshipl gets a better means of communication for all the residents of W.D. Don't go to the Township meetings and run home to gosspi on patch with a phoney name making a mountain out of a mold hill of what I said twisting the story for plain gossip...why didn't you comment what else was mention at the meeting ..a planning board member running around naked on school property...a friend of yours.? .....
JOSEPHINE DAWS December 20, 2012 at 01:05 PM
I couldn'tcomment any sooner as computer was not working nor was it working day of train derailmen. Why is it people who live in glass houses always throw stones. IF anyone is IGNORANT IT IS YOU. Ignoring the fact that a better means of communication needs to take place for ALL RESIDENTS OF W.D. if a emergency situation should occur. . age has nothing to do with it. why do you think you are young ????? have you look into a mirror lately? don't hide behind a phoney name on patch ..get your story straight and tell it to my face..or reveal your real name on patch, or do you want me to reveal it for you...lets see how many nasty comments about you will be mention. I took the stand to address a much needed change in the communication system for ALL RESIDENTS IN W.D.in event of an emergency...you make it seem like I COMMITTED A CRIME...... read some of the other people's commens about how the situation was handled for the two trailer parks. If this derailment happened in your neighborhood I KNOW FOR A FACT YOU WOULD OF BEEN AS CONCERNED AND LOUDLY VOICED YOUR OPINION...
JOSEPHINE DAWS December 20, 2012 at 01:10 PM
SEEMS TO ME YOUR BOTH ALREADY THAT WAY....
Occupant December 20, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Then I guess that makes three of us ....
JOSEPHINE DAWS December 20, 2012 at 05:52 PM
The only one whining, for your information several residens were making phone calls trying to find out something, especially after the air quality became worse on the second or third day when more ofPaulsboro residents were evacuated. You failed to mention the knock came on your door 5 hrs later...a lot could of happen in those 5 hrs. some residents became sick and seaked medical attention and some left to stay with relatives...so a lot you know....to make a long story short Air Quality Conrolled called me and stated they looked on the map and seen where the two trailer parks were very close to the site and should of had a air monitor installed and said they would do that and that made us all feel a little more comfortable. what kind of degree do you have to state Paulsboro residents were only ones in danger when Air Quality stated we should of had the air monitor. now in yesterday's paper some claim batteries in Air monitor detectors were dead. W.D. needs a better way of communication in an emergency. I NEVER said the police dept. or fire dept did not do a good job., they did as good as the resources they had....wake up we need better resources and next time get your facts right..

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