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.

Occupant December 11, 2012 at 01:09 PM
Ms. Daws was quite adamant about not receiving notification from the township timely. Despite reassurances from the township committee, she kept harping on receiving emergency news accurate and timely. Having access to a computer might have helped, but she didn't have one. Had she just registered with the Gloucester County Emergency Response Network, she would have received a mechanized telephone announcing the incident in Paulsboro as I did. That is if she at least had a telephone. In my opinion, the township police chief and administrator did a fine job. It's always easy to blame someone else for your own shortcomings. http://www.gloucesteralert.com/index.php?CCheck=1
WDTwpResident December 11, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Daws is an ignorant old woman who needs to get with the program and get informed before lashing out at a twp meeting!!
Occupant December 11, 2012 at 02:20 PM
We will get that way sooner or later, but I would give her the benefit of the doubt as long as she doesn't get into bashing for politics sake and stay on point.
Rebecca Brown December 11, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Why did it take so long the WD schools where in a shelter mode at 9 am..The mayor should of called the residents like he did during Halloween..
Harry Ladner Jr. December 11, 2012 at 03:55 PM
The ball was totally dropped.The Township has Emergency Response and Evacuation plans in effect for disasters like this.I have seen them my Dad was at one time involved in the committee that overseas it.There are plans for DERAILMENTS ,Plane Crashes,Chemical Leaks(EaglePoint) etc.Ms. Daws lives about .85 miles from the Derailment I believe she has a right to be pissed off.Guess what the Plan for Derailment with a Chemical Spill was not carried out.Bottom line ..Information?? There's a train spewing Poisonous Gas 3/4 of a mile from our residents...EVACUATE immediately or advise to Stay inside and close all windows doors Etc..Oh and for the record the Derailment is 1/2 in West Deptford the Township border is the middle of the Creek Bed where those trains lay.
Rebecca Brown December 11, 2012 at 06:07 PM
If I lived .85 miles I would of been mad to you are right Harry..
Sparky Dee December 11, 2012 at 06:31 PM
is she still breathing that's all that counts she's the only one whining from the trailer park.I live in the trailer park and the fire department knocked on doors and gave us the information,as soon as they got it from their source. it was handled in a professional manner. there's always somebody to complain.Paulsboro residents were the ones in danger not West Deptford.Since when does West deptford own a swamp and creek.anyone pay taxes on that swamp.Got some good land along Gator alley in florida
Harry Ladner Jr. December 11, 2012 at 07:38 PM
West Deptford does'nt own it ,but it is part of the Township.
Harry Ladner Jr. December 11, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Anybody along the RT. 44 corridor in the Thorofare area should go to a Township meeting and seriously ask questions.Especially what there plan is in the event of a Leak at SOLVAY SOLEXIS.Theres gases in there that would kill you in one breath.That used to be my view from my front window.After doing some extensive research on that facility and the Gases being stored there I was surprised to see they were ranked #1 in the State for most volatile facility...Luckily the wind direction the day of the derailment was WNW...A SW wind would have put it right in your laps..Know the emergency plans and the routes you need to take in the event of another environmental disaster.
david December 11, 2012 at 11:38 PM
Sparky Dee You should do some research before you comment on things. You don't sound to smart.
Chris J Galletta December 12, 2012 at 02:02 AM
What a crock! First off it takes 5 hrs to alert us that there was a derailment and a punctured tank with chemicals less then a mile away but, they waited to get all the facts first while possibly putting people at risk. Here's an idea, alert first of the incident, and then, get the facts. Better to be safe then sorry. I love how politicians believe they did the right thing. NO THEY DID NOT. And by the way, a notice on a cluster mailbox is in no way a letter sent to every one nor should the media construe it as such. In other words that is either 1) a lie or 2) an exaggeration of the truth. How do I know all this you might wonder? Because I live in White Swan and my mother lives in White Swan East. I'm sorry to the genius who thinks that the gas never blew over here. Yes it did. I know, I saw and smelt it. And for a follow up, I saw a township truck pass down my road in the park 2 times. Once on day 1 and once on day 4. I am appalled how this part of WD was so uninformed and the notice might I add was for the first day. Also, I got a flier from Paulsboro concerning the meeting at the high school tonight. Kind of funny since I live in West Deptford. But hey, at least I got a flier right from the other town. For those that think people here live below you thanks for alienating us and rendering us less then human. Bravo. PS - I have a home, car, phone, tv, and internet. Not that that's important that I need those things to validate my point.
Brian Zan December 12, 2012 at 02:46 AM
BUT YOU STILL LIVE IN A TRAILER.where every time it rains it floods. next you'll be whining about it took them forever to rescue us from the flooded rt 44. you can always SUE like the idiot from paulsboro. If you are so concerned about chemical releases from surrounding industries,check into Johnson Mathey.You can always hire Erin Brockovich.
Stephanie Fermazi December 12, 2012 at 02:48 AM
It's nice that an old lady who MIGHT not have internet, a phone or television is considered to be the one in the wrong because the local government failed to do its job. I have all of that, I work, I pay taxes... Not everyone in White Swan is poor and/or on welfare. I was chilling when it happened, was not online, and was not watching TV. I only realized something happened because my mother-in-law called me. I made the decision to call in sick and stay at home. I live here, I smelled the chemical. I may be fine now but what if I'm not? What if it affects me later in life? What if it was worse? What if something else happens in the future and the local government thinks it's ok to leave the people in White Swan hanging and to tape a small notice on a communal mail box that is two blocks away from some residents? We were obviously not important enough. Or at least that's what the local government thinks. What we really need to hear from them is: "I'm sorry we messed up. I'm sorry we lied to the media about sending individual letters. I'm sorry that we misled the public. I'm sorry that we did not act on an obvious emergency within our own town." And most of all: "I'm sorry that we sent you flyers everyday when we needed your vote and was not there when you needed me." Stop justifying a mistake when you were not there.
Chris J Galletta December 12, 2012 at 02:55 AM
@ Brian - I DON'T LIVE IN A TRAILER. I LIVE IN A MODULAR HOME AND THERE IS A DISTINCT DIFFERENCE. And what does that line have to do with the price of milk? What's your point? That makes me less of a citizen of West Deptford than you even though I pay taxes? Well, Brian, who said sue? I didn't. You did. I am only pointing out facts in a civil manner and not whining. No one is looking for a hand out but, to ensure that this never happens again.
Stephanie Fermazi December 12, 2012 at 02:57 AM
I am amazed by your prejudice and narrow-mindedness. I have never asked for a handout or tried to extort money in my life. But because I live in White Swan I am an automatic whiner, idiot, and take advantage of emergency situations to get easy cash. I don't know you yet I am ashamed of you.
Stephanie Fermazi December 12, 2012 at 02:59 AM
It's a sad day when some resort to personal attacks because they can no longer argue against the facts.
Stephanie Fermazi December 12, 2012 at 03:01 AM
Sparky, no one knocked on my door. Maybe they picked and chose? :-)
Chris J Galletta December 12, 2012 at 03:20 AM
No one knocked on my door Sparky. You just got the luck of the draw. No one knocked on my mom's door who lives in the other park and no one knocked on her mother in law's door whom might I add is the White Swan East Park Manager. So, come again Sparky? Handled in a professional manner? Not even close.
Rebecca Brown December 12, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Brian if the township made the decision at 9 am to keep the kids indoor at the WD schools they could of done the same thing early enough for the people at these 2 parks. Better yet alert the park manager and have her do it. The chemical that was released into the air that morning was dangerous. I'm sure if it was near your house you would of been crying...
Chris J Galletta December 12, 2012 at 05:16 PM
What's worse is that a few residents here got the letter and knock on the door and the majority were left not knowing. It's pretty self evident someone did not do their job and therefore should be held accountable and fired on the spot. However, I applaud Rebecca and a few others for seeing the situation for what it really was and apparently still is. Make no mistake I was most certainly not the only one who didn't get proper notice or a knock on the door. Someone got lazy and decided that it was too much for them to do their job for them given the conditions and therefore put the rest of us in danger. I am ashamed to even be here at this point. All that clearly shows is that they did know it was dangerous out here that morning and just did a few homes for fear of their own well being. If you do that kind of work whether be it volunteer or otherwise, you signed up for hazardous duty and should be held accountable for failure in doing the job you signed up for.
Paul Bryant December 12, 2012 at 10:20 PM
i just can't understand it.You people complaining on the way things were handled and there are people that don't have a place to call home because of hurricane Sandy and they did much less complaining than the residents of a trailer park. There were no deaths or serious injuries like the people at the shore areas. You are surrounded by dangerous industries that can cause a catastrophe and for years no one said anything. acroos the street you have Dana trucking carrying all kinds of volitile liquids,solar panels emitting solar .
Paul Bryant December 12, 2012 at 10:22 PM
rays I sympathize with what happened buy move on
Chris J Galletta December 12, 2012 at 10:45 PM
This isn't Sandy and nor should it be compared to it. Comparing one tragedy to another is as dumb a comment as it gets. No one gets over anything like this until there is resolve. There is no timeline for that so just saying get over it when it's not even done is just as asinine.
Chris J Galletta December 12, 2012 at 11:10 PM
Speaking to Paul, one has to wonder why after almost 2 weeks that both parks today just got a letter delivered door to door concerning vinyl chloride and what shelter in place means. A little late don't you think? Do you think that's a sign that they are done and we are over it? Kind of not funny considering this is something that should have been done on day one. Who cares about all the other refinery stuff or Dana Trucking. We knew this could happen somewhere along the way, but we also had faith and believed that if such a thing ever occurred it would have been responded too in a better and much more timely manner then ignoring us until this week.
Sandi Beech December 13, 2012 at 12:29 AM
This entire country is plagued by derailments,refinery accidents,weather catastophes,and other mishaps dangerous to human life. Did it ever occur that just maybe the area was not trained to handle an emergency such as this.If anyone is to blame it would be the railroad.They could have sent personel out to warn eveyone in the danger zone of what happened. Don't blame it all on the township. Now maybe in the future they will handle the situation a lot better. One more thing the comments on here relagate to bashing one another over an incident that was clearly a miniscule hazard situation. It's like I went fishing and caught one this BIIIIIIG!
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
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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