CLEVELAND (WJW) — The FOX 8 I-TEAM has uncovered what inspectors are finding in Northeast Ohio with trains carrying hazardous materials.

Big question since the toxic train derailment 3 months ago in East Palestine. How safe are those rail cars going past your back yard?

We reviewed 2022 Federal Railroad Administration inspection reports. We focused on our area. The records show, many times, federal inspectors found no problems.

But, some found, “missing or loose bolts, nuts…that make the tank car unsafe…” Other inspections raised questions about a rail company’s safety plan or training.

And, often, inspectors wrote up problems with placards that identify what’s in a rail car.

So many of you have wondered who’s keeping watch on trains since the East Palestine crash and fallout from hazardous materials?

We showed those inspection records to Sil Caggiano, a hazmat specialist and retired firefighter.

He said, overall, he wonders, “How much of this stuff is getting fixed? And, how much is getting pencil-whipped? Eh? Let it go. Let the next guy do it.”

The problem noted most involved placards. Placards found to be missing, unreadable, or hand-written. The symbols and numbers on those placards play an important role in an emergency.

WJW photo

“It gives the responding companies a good idea what they’re dealing with,” Caggiano said. “So, yeah, these placards are extremely important, especially to first responders.”

He also said, loose bolts or nuts, of course, could be critical to safety. And, when one problem is discovered, Caggiano told us, he believes there could always be more.

“You kind of get into the habit of saying, if there’s one, there’s got to be 5 or 6 more,” he said.

The Federal Railroad Administration tells us it does not seek punishment for every issue raised by inspectors. Enforcement action against a railroad depends on a lot of factors. Often, a company will fix problems spotted by inspectors, right away.

Caggiano also said he sees inspectors and rail employees under tremendous pressure to keep trains moving, telling us, “They’re being forced to inspect more cars in a quicker fashion.”

Here, a snapshot of what’s seen by people paid to take a close look at trains moving past your house.

The I-Team has requested more inspection records. And, as soon as we get those, we will update this story.