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Media

+ - Hazardous chemical spill in DE mostly unnoticed.

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BrianRoach writes "Last night (Friday 8/25) a railcar carrying Styrene developed a leak here in Delaware, between Dover and the town of Cheswold.
What followed (and continues) is an example of how completely unprepared our area is for any type of disaster, even though the area is literally a hub of chemical manufacturers with railcars such as this travelling the rails every day. While I know many Slashdot readers live in major metro areas that include multiple news teams ready to launch helicopters at the slightest hint of a police chase on the highway (as I myself used to), things appear to work a little differently if you don't, and it is incedibly sobering and frightening how much information isn't available via the internet or anywhere else in a potentially lethal situation.

The first indication of a problem came as I attempted to go home from work at about 8:30pm. A roadblock prevented me from doing so, and I was informed by the officer that there was a chemical spill of some sort and I couldn't go home. I asked if he knew what it was, how dangerous, etc ... and his answer was that they didn't know anything except that they were to block off the roads in a 5 mile radius and suggested I go back to work and "close the doors and windows and don't go outside".

Upon returning to my business, I immediatly called my wife at home (remember, I can't get there) and asked if she had heard/read anything on the TV/net/etc. She hadn't but said that now that I mention it there was an odd odor. She then went to the back door, and upon opening it said the air smelled like burning plastic and her eyes started watering. I told her to grab our dogs and get out of there, now in somewhat of a panic as I am seriously worried about them. We ended up spending the night at a friend's house outside of the 5 mile radius. The website linked to above is still the only news outlet we have been able to get any information from.

Today they still have a 1500 foot radius evacuated. The highyway is shut down. If the spill had been worse than it was, the consequences could have been horrific. Even now we have several communities that were exposed to styrene for several hours (including my wife). The only notice anyone ever received was a auto-dialed phone message hours after the spill (and in our case, hours after the airborne styrene had reached our house — we listened to the message today on the answering machine upon returning home), and even then the details were sketchy (they didn't know what spilled) and the local and state police phone lines were swamped with them having no additional information to give. The original message said they would be calling with additional information.

Ironically that call just came as I type this at 3:50pm on Saturday. The recording gave no real details, again, but said that as of now ... we can go outside unless you're within a 1/4 mile, in which case ... you should have evactuated. Looking at Google maps, we're just under a mile from the spill. I don't know how safe I feel at the moment. In addition, the recording provided a website url ... that doesn't work. Poking around the site I was able to actually find what they wanted you to read
I think I'll be leaving the house agian."

FORTRAN rots the brain. -- John McQuillin

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