Remember when South Carolina was gassed with Chlorine?

From a retrospective article:

Graniteville shook the morning of Jan. 6, 2005, when a Norfolk Southern train smashed into a parked rail car in the yard at Avondale Mills, the community’s major employer.

A railroad crew that had parked the rail car forgot to flip a track switch, causing the swift-moving Norfolk Southern train, engineered by Chris Seeling, to divert off the main track and onto a side rail. There, it collided with the parked tanker car, carrying chlorine. The tanker car ruptured, prompting a flurry of 911 calls from people afraid of the poisonous gas that blanketed Graniteville. All told, 11,500 gallons of chlorine seeped out.

The rail yard of Avondale Mills was gassed. The trains collided and this random local company was hit with 11,500 gallons of motherfucking chlorine gas.

“I don’t want to be alone; I can’t breathe,’’ an Avondale Mills worker told a 911 dispatcher at the time.

“My lungs hurt so much. Oh God! I don’t know if I’m going to make it or not.’’

And that’s just one person at the time. In another article, a worker at the mill offered up this:

“We worked with bleach and enzymes and had bleach ranges where we actually bleached the cloth white,” Smith said. “When we started smelling the bleach, we thought we had a ruptured pipe. So, instead of trying to get away from the smell, we were actually going to the part of the plant where it smelled the worst to try to find it. It was probably 30 to 45 minutes after the train wreck before we realized it was something that had happened outside the plant.”

Now that sounds pretty bad, but it gets worse:

The Gregg Plant sits on low ground below street level in a valley, and chlorine gas is two-and-a-half times heavier than air and tends to sink to the ground and flow downhill. Also, dozens of ventilation fans designed to cool the plant on both sides of the building pumped the gas into the plant.

Nine people died from being gassed to death. Nine fucking people were killed, but that’s hardly the total cost. There’s a lot of people still suffering from damage to their lungs. The casualties are far worse than a base statistic of “nine people died.”

Even worse, a lot of the emergency response parroted the standard message of, “stay where you are.” Well, needless to say, it’s a bad idea to stay in a cloud of chlorine gas.

It was bad. It was the kind of thing you expect from previous eras, not 2005. And people are still suffering.


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