Videos of the train wreck in Ohio show a wheel bearing in the final stage of overheating
Air Quality in East Palestine, Ohio During a Train Derailed Near Beaver County, Pennsylvania, Derailed Five Days ago: A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Measurement
EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — Evacuated residents can safely return to the Ohio village where crews burned toxic chemicals after a train derailed five days ago near the Pennsylvania state line, East Palestine Fire Chief Keith Drabick said Wednesday.
The people in the area of East Palestine and Beaver County, Pennsylvania had been advised to stay indoors as a precautionary measure. The officials in neighboring counties stated that air samples did not show high levels of contaminates.
James Justice of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said around-the-clock air monitoring has shown normal, un-concerning levels. Hundreds of data points from that “show that the air quality in the town is safe,” he said.
He reiterates that there is a robust air monitoring system in place and the data shows no cause for health concern. Several samples outside of the area did not reveal toxins in the air during a controlled burn at the site.
Many nearby residents left after the accident and others were ordered out before a controlled release of the chemicals because of health concerns.
The commandant of the Ohio National Guard had previously stated that his soldiers would take readings in homes, basement and businesses to make sure the air was safe before the order to evacuate was lifted.
Environmental Monitoring of Homes for Hazardous Chemicals Derived from a Rail Car Collision on Sunday, July 17. The Norfolk Southern School District in East Palestine
A fiery crash caused by about 50 cars derailing, carrying hazardous materials, occurred on the edge of East Palestine. The investigators say that a mechanical problem with a rail car axle is to blame.
Some business owners and East Palestine residents have filed lawsuits against Norfolk Southern, saying the company was negligent and demanding the company fund court-supervised medical screenings for serious illnesses that may be caused by exposure to those chemicals.
The EPA released a list of toxic chemicals on Sunday, written by Norfolk Southern. In addition to vinyl chloride and butyl acrylate, it mentions ethylhexyl acrylate, which can cause headaches, nausea, and respiratory problems in people exposed to it; as well as isobutylene, which can make people dizzy and drowsy.
There were many reports of animals falling ill, people burning in their eyes and a strong smell in town after the order to evacuate was lifted.
The EPA said there was nothing to worry about in East Palestine as of Sunday.
Since Monday, vinyl chloride and hydrogen chloride have not been found in 295 homes that have been screened. There are 181 homes left to be evaluated in the voluntary indoor air screening program.
Breathing or drinking vinyl chloride can cause a number of health risks including dizziness and headaches. Over time, the chemical may cause liver damage.
When vinyl chloride is exposed in the environment it breaks down quickly from sunlight, and becomes another chemical in the environment. When it is spilled in soil or surface water, the chemical evaporates into the air quickly, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
The EPA has been monitoring for a number of hazardous chemicals, including phosgene and hydrogen Chloride which are released by burning vinyl chloride. Exposure to phosgene can cause eye irritation, dry burning throat and vomiting, and hydrogen chloride can irritate the skin, nose, eyes and throat according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Environmental Protection Agency Agents and Fire Components Investigating a High Hazardous Material Ohio State Electric Vehicle (TRAINS) Decay Train
Karen Dannemiller, a professor at the Ohio State University who studies indoor air quality, said people will be concerned about long-term exposure coming at lower levels now that we are into a longer term phase.
She added that indoor spaces can be an important point of exposure, which is why she urges East Palestine residents to take part in EPA’s at-home air screening.
Dannemiller suggests residents clean surfaces that collect dust, and wash items that absorb smells, such as bed sheets and curtains. She says to carefully vacuum in short bursts so that there are no contaminants in the air.
The safety board said in a statement Tuesday that the video shows a wheel bearing that appears to be in the final stage of overheating before the train derailed.
The wheelset will undergo a metallurgical examination as part of the overall investigation. The tank cars will be decontaminated before investigators can finish their examination.
The NTSB said it is reviewing other videos, too, including footage from two local businesses reported by local media to show glowing or flames from the train prior to the derailment.
The wreckage burned for days as authorities worried about the possibility of a widespread, deadly explosion. But crews managed controlled detonations to release the chemical, which can kill quickly at high levels and increase cancer risk. The hazardous substance spilled into a trench, where it was burned away.
The train was not deemed a high hazardous material train by the state public utilities commission, according to the governor.
There is no vinyl chloride in any of the waterways near the train crash site and environmental teams are aerating them, investigators said Tuesday.
While there are some waterways that remain contaminated, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is confident that the contaminants are contained, said Tiffany Kavalec, chief of the division of surface water at the agency.
What Kavalec described as “fire combustion chemicals” did flow to the Ohio River, “but the Ohio River is very large, and it’s a water body that’s able to dilute the pollutants pretty quickly,” she said.
The chemicals are a “contaminant plume” that the Ohio EPA and other agencies have been tracking in real time. It’s believed to be moving about a mile an hour, Kavalec said.
The majority of chemicals could pass if the drinking water intakes were to be closed. This strategy, along with drinking water treatment…are both effective at addressing these contaminants and helps ensure the safety of the drinking water supplies,” Kavalec said, adding that they’re pretty confident that the “low levels” of contaminants that remain are not getting passed onto customers.
Still, authorities are strongly recommending that people in the area use bottled water for drinking, especially if their water is from a private source, such as a well.
How Many People Have Died in Ohio Waterways? Anecdotes About the Ohio Railroad Derailment, and an Extensive Search for Air Quality
About 3,500 fish across 12 different species have died in Ohio’s waterways following the spill, Mary Mertz, the director of Ohio’s Department of Natural Resources, said.
The estimation of the dead fish came after initial testing and sampling by the state agency. There does not appear to have been an increase in the number of fish killed since the first couple of days following the derailment.
Some of the pits of dirt that have been dug up measure about 700 feet long and 8 feet deep, Kurt Kollar, the on-scene coordinator for the Ohio EPA’s Office of Emergency Response, said.
When asked about anecdotal reports of people getting headaches and sore throats, and of animals, such as cats and chickens, dying near the train derailment, Ohio Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said that air quality does not appear to be the source.
Anecdotes are difficult because they are anecdotes. “Everything that we’ve gathered thus far is really pointing toward very low measurements, if at all.”