In letter, Dingell pushes Norfolk Southern for answers in Van Buren Township train derailment

About 30 rail cars were impacted by the derailment

Train derailment in Van Buren Township on Feb. 16, 2023. (WDIV/Nightcam)

VAN BUREN TOWNSHIP, Mich. – A train operated by Norfolk Southern derailed in Van Buren Township last week, alarming residents in the area following the derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, also operated by the transportation company.

While there was no sign of hazardous materials spilled in Michigan, U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell sent a letter to Norfolk Southern on Friday, demanding more answers on the Van Buren Township derailment.

“While we seem to have dodged the worst-case scenario in this train derailment, the people of East Palestine did not. Communities throughout the country have been on edge since the first derailment, including the communities I represent. Norfolk Southern operates routes across Michigan and people are concerned this could happen again following the second derailment. I find this second derailment deeply concerning following the disaster that playing out in Ohio,” Dingell wrote.

“In the wake of this second serious incident, there are still many unanswered questions, and nor do we know the ultimate cause for the derailment. The people of Van Buren Township and the surrounding Michigan communities deserve a full accounting of the conditions that led up to this derailment, the exact cause of the derailment, and what actions Norfolk Southern is taking to prevent further operational failures that could directly threaten public safety or result in a major environmental disaster.”

Dingell requested Norfolk Southern hold a public town hall for residents and to provide a full briefing, with a comprehensive summary to her office as soon as possible.

Here’s the full letter from Rep. Dingell:

Here’s what we know about the Van Burn Township train derailment:

When and where did the train derail?

The first reports of the derailment came before 8:45 a.m. Thursday from the train tracks in the area of Huron River Drive between Martinsville and Haggerty roads. Aerial video showed several train cars off the tracks.

Train that derailed in Van Buren Township was carrying hazardous material; no hazmat leak reported

How many cars were involved?

About 30 rail cars were impacted by the derailment, according to Van Buren Township officials.

Did any toxic or hazardous chemicals spill as a result of the derailment?

One railcar contained liquid chlorine; however, it was far away from the overturned section and was among the first cars removed from the area, according to Van Buren Township officials. There was no evidence of exposed hazardous materials. There were no reported injuries.

Additionally, the EPA air monitoring confirmed normal air quality, and Norfolk Southern confirmed that no cars carrying hazardous materials were involved.

What we don’t know yet about the Van Buren Township train derailment:

  • We don’t know the official cause of the train derailment -- the investigation is “active and ongoing” and officials say the update will be made public as soon as possible.
  • We don’t know what was in every car that was involved in the derailment -- but Norfolk Southern typically transports industrial products, including agriculture, forest and consumer products, chemicals, and metals and construction materials.

Norfolk Southern has been the subject of public outrage after a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio -- about 250 miles from Detroit -- caused a spill of toxic chemicals, sparking a fire that sent a huge plume of smoke over the community.

About the Author:

Ken Haddad has proudly been with WDIV/ClickOnDetroit since 2013. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters, and helps lead the WDIV Insider team. He's a big sports fan and is constantly sipping Lions Kool-Aid.