Experts Distinguish Corrosive Property Damage from Normal Deterioration


Several years ago, a catastrophic event occurred in which a train carrying chlorine gas derailed and one of the tank cars loaded with chlorine ruptured, releasing about 60 tons of the gas. Within four days, RJ Lee Group was on the scene of the accident to provide technical support in evaluating air quality and to assist federal, state and local authorities to ensure that the evacuated properties were safe for reoccupation. After completing the study of the leak’s impact on the immediate area, we were asked to remain by the gas carrier and were retained to determine any property damage caused by the chlorine gas. These evaluations involved physical inspection and examination of more than 360 unique property locations and damage assessment of approximately 500 vehicles, on-site readings and laboratory analyses.

Recently, some individuals living near the accident location claimed corrosive property damage as a result of the event. Our experts were once again retained to inspect the residences of the claimants, and also to provide a critical review of data generated by their expert, as well as to evaluate samples collected and analyzed by that expert.

To the trained eye, the nature of chlorine damage to property is distinct and visually, as well as microscopically, recognizable when compared to general weathering over time. In an effort to separate instances of chlorine damage from those caused by standard weathering at the claimants’ properties, our metals corrosion experts followed the same proven protocol we established during our initial examination of hundreds of properties immediately after the gas release to identify the damage. Once we completed these observations, we were able to move on to collecting samples.

We collected lift samples from surfaces at the claimants’ properties and analyzed them using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) to obtain microscopic evidence of corrosion products. Taking into account this entire body of evidence, including our analyses of physical samples provided by the claimants’ expert, we determined that the residence was not affected by the release of the chlorine gas.

After a critical review of the claimants’ expert’s report and based upon our on-site inspections, the analysis of samples from the claimants’ property, our corrosion expert’s findings, and our analytical results, our expert testified at trial concluding that there was no corrosion property damage at the claimants’ residence as a result of the chlorine gas release.