NTSB second day hearing, testimony looks at why "vent and burn" happened
A.D. McKisic, a rail supply expert for Trinity Rail, opened the NTSB Hearing at 3 pm Friday pledging to work for those impacted by the derailment and to work with the NTSB.
Friday, June 23rd 2023, 5:55 PM EDT
On Friday, the afternoon session focused on rail tank car safety.
A.D. McKisic, a rail supply expert for Trinity Rail, opened the NTSB Hearing at 3 pm Friday, who said he is responsible for rail car design, including testing analysis and technical interface with regulatory agencies, pledging to work with East Palestine and for those impacted by the derailment and to work with the NTSB.
Karen Ann Stegmann, vice president of supply chains for Oxy Vinyls, testified Friday in front of the company whose vinyl chloride was on the train that derailed in East Palestine in February.
Steggman testified that vent and burn in this case was a unique to this incident, that that all the vinyl chloride tankers were intact, when questioned on the valves not functioning on two of the cars. She stated that its is Oxy Vinyls position that the valves stopped functioning during the the vent and burn process.
She stated that Oxy Vinyls doesn't build the rail cars, but leases them, relying on rail company like Norfolk Southern to transport their products. Five the cars derailed in February included vinyl chloride, which did not breech or leak for more than 60 hours and she stated that the pressure relief devices all added as intended. All cars were manufactured by Trinity.
Stegmann stated the other facilities hazardous chemicals were breeched and leaked included ethyl lean glycol, butyl acrylate, isobutylene and benzene, initially fueling the fire at the scene.
Paul Williams, the Norfolk Southern Regional Manager of Hazardous Materials told the NTSB panel that rail remains the safest way of transporting goods and hazardous chemicals above ground.
He added that Norfolk has been enhancing its hot detectors, looking at the next generation of hot detectors and committed to joining the federal railroad federation close reporting system.
Paul Stancil, chair of the technical panel, with the Federal Railroad Administration, oversees enforcement of the tank cars with his staff of three engineers.
Stancil said that he doesn't get involved in rail investigations, but looks at the damaged rail cars themselves, to make assessments on changes that could improve rail rail design.
38;00 Stancil testified that the five vinyl chloride cars that were vented and burned showed no signs of mechanical damage after reviewing the cars post derailment accident. He later clarified that by no mechanical damage he meant the tank itself, but noted that the running gear in the brake ssystems was destroyed and the jackets were messed up.
Norfolk Southern's Williams said that they were unable to see much of the damage because of the configuration of the wreckage, but said that valves were damaged in the fire as rendered valves inoperable.
The NTSB panel asked William Schoonover, Associate Administrator Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, whether anything could be done to remove older cars and shippers that they have the option to be beyond minimal federal safety regulations for cars with hazardous materials.
Jeremiah Zimmerman, of Midland Manufacturing, testified that several of the valve stem were stuck inside the top guide on the tanker cars, used since the 1960s with the same design.
Stegmann said that analysis of the post burn valves with knowing the parameters the valves had been exposed to by the vent and burn process.
Randy Keltz, of the Federal Railroad Administration, testified that the five vinyl cholride tank cars all had various nonconformance with regards to approvals.
Steggman fired back that their policies and procedures involving vinyl chloride compliance that she and her team had only received notification on concerns in May, but had been providing more than 350 documents to the team in East Palestine since February, taking the nature of the accident seriously.
Steggman also the GATX, the company that leases rail cars, will need to answer for their approval process.
Questions were asked stating that rail cars weren't examined until six weeks after the crash, could the valves corrosion happened during this period, but Kelrz said said he had no way to know that information, nor does do not know the condition in which the cars are stored until inspected.
East Palestine Fire Chief Keith Drabick asked Keltz if all five of the vinyl chloride cars met standard requirements for the product, but Keltz stated that the FRA doesn't know if those rail cars met the design criteria for vinyl chloride, saying, “they're not completely nullified but they're not 100 percent compliant.”
Brice Landsburg, the vice chair for the NTSB, asked about economics versus safety when its comes to rail cars. Landsberg asked Keltz who is responsible for upholding the law of changing out the components documentation whether a rail car is carrying hazardous contents or non-hazardous contents. “The owner? The shipper? FRA? AAR? It seems like everybody's kind of pointing fingers and we don't have a system to ascertain if a car is in compliance or not. Correct or not?”