The EPA chief pledges to hold the train company accountable for the Ohio toxic train disaster
The Ohio State Department of Environmental Protection and a “Safe” Air Monitoring System following the East Palestine, Ohio, Train Expeditor, Derailment
People who were evacuated from East Palestine, Ohio because of the train wreck can return to the village now that crews have done their job, the chief said.
The residents of East Palestine were asked to leave out of caution. On Monday, Feb. 6, crews conducted what officials called a “controlled release” of the hazardous chemicals which caused a large plume of black smoke.
James Justice of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said around-the-clock air monitoring shows normal levels. Hundreds of data points from that “show that the air quality in the town is safe,” he said.
He said that there was a robust air monitoring system in place that showed nothing that would cause health concerns. During the burn at the site, monitors did pick up toxins in the air, but other samples outside of that area did not.
Many nearby residents left shortly after the derailment, and others were ordered out before the controlled release of the chemicals because of concerns about serious health risks from it.
As officials tried to make sure the air was safe before lifting the evacuated order, the Ohio National Guard would take readings inside homes, basement and businesses.
How dangerous is a toxic train derailment in East Palestine? An update on the aftermath of a fatal train accident on Feb. 3
No one was injured when about 50 cars derailed in a fiery, mangled mess on the outskirts of East Palestine on Feb. 3. As fears grew about a potential explosion, officials seeking to avoid an uncontrolled blast had the area evacuated and opted to release and burn toxic vinyl chloride from five rail cars, sending flames and black smoke billowing into the sky again.
“We will be judged by our actions. We are cleaning up the site in an environmentally responsible way, reimbursing residents affected by the derailment, and working with members of the community to identify what is needed to help East Palestine recover and thrive,” Norfolk Southern President and CEO Alan Shaw said in a release.
Toxic train derailments don’t happen very often, but they can have serious consequences for human and environmental health when they do. Here are some common questions, answered.
Some residents in the village of 5,000 who were evacuated are not going back because they are not certain their water, soil, and surfaces are safe.
The Environmental Protection Agency said on Sunday that it had not found any levels of concern in East Palestine.
He said that the home was tested and found to be free of Volatile Organic Compounds. In an update published on Monday, it said that no chemical detections had been made so far in the air of 291 homes, with schools and a library also screening.
Breathing or drinking vinyl chloride can cause a number of health risks. People who breathe the chemical are more likely to experience damage to their body.
When vinyl chloride is exposed in the environment, it breaks down from sunlight within a few days and changes into other chemicals such as formaldehyde. 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 several other hazardous chemicals, including phosgene and hydrogen chloride, which are released by burning vinyl chloride. Exposure to phosgene and hydrogen chloride can hurt the skin, nose and throat, according to the center for disease control and prevention.
The Ohio Department of Transportation and Environmental Protection (OHEP) is Investigating a Vinyl Chloride Contaminant along the Detonated Ohio Railroad Derailment
Karen Dannemiller is a professor at Ohio State University and she said people are going to be concerned about the long-term exposure that comes at lower levels.
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 recommends residents to wipe down surfaces, especially areas that collect dust, and wash items that absorb smells, such as bed sheets and curtains. She suggests vacuuming in short bursts to try to prevent pollutants from entering the air.
Engineers from the NationalTransportation Safety Board Materials Laboratory in Washington, D.C. are analyzing the suspected overheated wheel bearing.
The wheelset will undergo a metallurgical examination as part of the overall investigation. Once the cars are free of hazardous materials, investigators will return to complete an exam.
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. The controlled detonations released a chemical that can kill at high levels and increase cancer risk. The hazardous substance spilled into a trench, where it was burned away.
“If this is true – and I’m told it’s true – this is absurd,” DeWine said. When there are trains carrying hazardous material that are going through the state of Ohio, we should know.
Almost 500 cubic yards of “vinyl chloride-impacted material” has been removed, according to the Ohio EPA, and cleanup of contaminated dirt near the derailment site continues.
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.
The governor said a chemical plume of butyl acrylate in the Ohio River is currently located near Gallipolis, Ohio, and will be near Huntington, West Virginia, sometime tomorrow. Testing results indicate that the chemical is currently well below a level the CDC considers hazardous, he said. The Ohio River does not contain vinyl chloride, though agencies will continue sampling the river out of caution.
The Ohio EPA and other agencies are tracking the chemicals in real time. It’s believed to be moving about a mile an hour, Kavalec said.
The majority of chemicals can be passed if the drinking water intakes are closed. This strategy and drinking water treatment is effective at addressing these contaminants as well as helping ensure the safety of the drinking water supplies.
State officials have repeatedly said water from the municipal system – which is pulled from five deep wells covered by solid steel casing – is safe to drink. According to the governor’s office, the state’s EPA encouraged residents who get water from private wells to have it tested.
The Ohio Derailment and Exposure of Fish During the April 11, 2002 Deep Inelastic Scanning Event at the Palomar Environmental Reservoir
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources estimates that more than 7 miles of streams were impacted by the spill and that thousands of small fish were killed.
Initial testing and sampling by the state agency came to an estimation of the dead fish. There does not appear to have been an increase in the number of fish killed since the first couple of days following the derailment.
Kurt Kollar is the on-scene coordinating agent for the Ohio EPA’s Office of Emergency Response.
The volatile organic compounds released by the controlled explosion can cause symptoms including headache, sore throat, and nose and eye irritation – which some East Palestine residents have complained of. However, Ohio’s state health director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said air quality doesn’t appear to be behind the reported animal deaths near the derailment.
“Anecdotes are challenging because they’re anecdotes,” Vanderhoff said. Everything that we have gathered so far is pointing toward very low readings.
America’s railroads move a lot of chemicals. Freight trains moved 2.2 million carloads of chemicals in 2021, according to the Association of American Railroads.
“It’s the mode of transportation that’s capable of moving bulk quantities,” Federal Rail Administration spokesperson Warren Flatau told CNN. It is not possible to move commodities by truck over the highways, which are not looked upon favorably.
However, the USA Today analysis found that other forms of transportation are much more leak-prone: “for every rail leak reported last year, there were two involving planes and 67 on highways.”
“The real issue is the risk of derailment and explosion,” Kimberly Garrett, a researcher and PFAS expert at Northeastern University. Natural gas would be devastating had it been to go down like the vinyl chloride.
Water Treatment and Air Quality Tests in the Ohio Rail Car Spill: Implications for Volatile Organic Compounds and Cancers
Ohio Environmental Protection Agency officials have been conducting air, soil and water tests since the controlled explosion of the chemicals inside the rail cars.
While most of the Tuesday news conference focused on volatile organic compounds – chemicals found in common household products – there are other kinds of chemicals that were released in the spill that don’t diffuse as easily, according to Purdue University professor Andrew Whelton, an expert on disasters, environmental chemistry and water quality.
“Because of their size, they don’t go in the air as easily,” Whelton said. They like to stick with soils and other materials. The question is, how contaminated is the creek and what will they do to remediate that?”
There have been unconfirmed anecdotal reports of pets and chickens dying. Mary Mertz, the director of Ohio’s Department of Natural Resources, said Tuesday that there’s no evidence that non-aquatic species have been affected by the spill.
Crews have excavated and removed nearly 500 cubic yards of “vinyl chloride-impacted material” including soil, according to Kurt Kollar, the on-scene coordinator for the Ohio EPA’s Office of Emergency Response. The ditches around the contaminated dirt are being blocked by the EPA.
Water treatment facilities should be able to remove low levels of volatile organic compounds in the water and that it will be safe to drink, according to Kavalec.
PFAS don’t break down naturally, despite exposure to sunlight, air and water. The chemicals have also been linked to higher levels of some cancers.
The Velez Family of East Palestine Infers the Phenomenology of the Dust Contamination at a Linear Collider
A strong chlorine smell filled the air this week as the Velez family raised their two children.
Representatives of the train’s operator, Norfolk Southern, planned on attending Wednesday night’s meeting to provide information to residents on how they’re responding to the chemical crisis. But the company backed out, citing threats against its employees.
The company stated in a release that it has become increasingly concerned about the physical threat to employees and the community surrounding this event because of the increased likelihood of outside parties.
Company officials were supposed to join local leaders Wednesday evening to update the community on the steps taken to safely clean up the accident site, and provide the latest results from air and water testing.
A community meeting still was expected to go forward Wednesday evening, and plaintiff’s attorneys invited residents to meet with them beforehand to discuss the derailment’s impact.
“Is it OK to still be here? Are my kids safe? The people should be safe. Is the community safe in the future? The East Palestine resident spoke to reporters. “We all know the severity of that question, and what’s at stake. Some people think they are not playing as well as they could, and some people think they are.
Velez wrote that his wife is a nurse, and that she is not exposing them to what is currently in our town. It’s not worth the risk of living in our own home again.
The Ohio EPA and Norfolk Southern Railroad Authority are investigating the latest tests of public water wells in the village of Bethe-Salpeter
The latest tests show the water in the village’s wells is safe to drink. The EPA believes private water wells should be tested because they are closer to the surface.
A spokesperson for the company said “some soil is moved around” during the initial response phase. The site is being resuscitated by removing soil, said a company spokesman.
Kurt Kohler, director of the Ohio EPA’s Office of Emergency Response said February 8 that the state would still be involved in long-term cleaning up after the emergency response. The federal EPA, too, will “continue to do everything in our power to help protect the community,” Administrator Michael Regan said Tuesday.
In a document sent to the EPA and recently made public by the agency, a company contracted by Norfolk Southern for cleanup efforts did not list soil removal among completed activities.
Environmental health scientist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst Richard Peltier told CNN in an email that contaminated soil would continue to leech pollutants into the air and surrounding ground. “Every time it rains, a flood of new contaminants will enter the ecosystem.”
CNN asked Norfolk Southern why it had not removed contaminated soil before reopening the site, and if it had filled in areas of contaminated soil and chemicals in order to reopen the rail line.
East Palestine resident Ben Ratner and his family worry about the longer-term risks that environmental officials are only beginning to assess, he told CNN this week.
Ben, who owns the cafe, said he and his brothers are still experiencing a mix of emotions just right from the beginning.
When Is It Hard to Feel Good About Dealing With a Job? The Case of Velez and a Nagging Headache in East Palestine
“It’s hard to make an investment in something like that or even feel good about paying our mortgage whenever there might not be any value to those things in the future,” he said. It is difficult to come to grips with.
Norfolk Southern has committed to millions of dollars’ worth financial assistance to East Palestine, including $3.4 million in direct financial assistance to families, a $1 million community assistance fund, among other aid, according to the company.
Velez and his family are temporarily staying in rentals away from the town. He previously told CNN that when he visited the town Monday, a chemical odor left his eyes and throat burning, and gave him a nagging headache.
“In terms of some of the symptoms of headache, et cetera, unfortunately volatile organic compounds share, with a host of other things, the ability to cause very common symptoms at the lower levels – so headache, eye irritation, nose irritation, et cetera,” he said. “I think that we have to look at the measured facts – and the measured facts include the fact that the air sampling in that area really is not pointing toward an air source for this.”
As to odor, residents “in the area and tens of miles away may smell odors coming from the site,” Ohio EPA spokesperson James Lee told CNN on Wednesday. Some of the substances involved have low odor thresholds. The people may be able to detect these contaminants at levels much lower than what is considered hazardous.
The Ratner Family’s Clean Water Crisis: News from Norfolk Southern, June 24 – 7 – 8 p.m., A Regulated Meeting
The Ratner family is limiting its water use because of unknown affects, Ben Ratner said. Velez worries “every time we turn the water on or give my daughter a bath could potentially be hazardous,” he wrote on Facebook.
He and his family have been onAirbnb for 30 minutes from their home, but their finances are in crisis, and a friend started a Go Fund Me to help them.
“Unfortunately, many of us residents are stuck in the same situation and the sad truth is that there is no answer,” he wrote. “There is no viable solution other than to leave and pay a mortgage on a potentially worthless home.”
State officials told worried people the air and water was safe to breathe while they were gathered to hear what they had learned.
Norfolk Southern, which did not attend the gathering because of safety concerns for its staff, was not transparent because residents wanted to know about health risks.
Wednesday’s meeting came amid continuing concerns about the huge plumes of smoke, persisting odors, questions over potential threats to pets and wild animals, any potential impact on drinking water and what was happening with cleanup.
Why are they not talking about it? EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan discusses how Norfolk Southern was notified of the East Palestine train wreck
Why are they not talking about it? Kathy said about the railroad. They’re not here answering questions and they’re not supporting. For three days we didn’t even know what was on the train.”
In and around East Palestine, near the Pennsylvania state line, residents said they wanted assistance navigating the financial help the railroad offered hundreds of families who evacuated, and they want to know whether it will be held responsible for what happened.
Yost stated in a letter that the pollution caused environment harm, created a nuisance, and damaged natural resources.
Alan Shaw, the President and CEO of Norfolk Southern, said in a statement that they would be judged by their actions. Cleaning the site is being done in a responsible manner, we are reimbursing residents affected by the accident, and we are working with the community to identify what is necessary to help East Palestine recover and thrive.
The EPA chief traveled to East Palestine, Ohio, on Thursday and said that the agency will be holding Norfolk Southern accountable for the hazardous chemicals train wreck.
Speaking to CNN’s Jason Carroll Thursday morning, EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said the agency has full authority to use its enforcement capabilities over the crisis.
Regan told CNN that they issued a notice of accountability to the company, and that they signed it, indicating they will be responsible for the clean up. “But as this investigation continues, and as new facts arise, let me just say, and be very clear, I will use the full enforcement authority of this agency, and so will the federal government, to be sure that this company is held accountable.”
Thousands of fish were killed by being washed down streams and rivers, fueling residents’ concerns about water and air safety, despite the assurances.
EPA, EPA and East Palestine are preparing to be prepared for the next stage of the hazardous train derailment — Thursday’s town hall meeting
The town hall was attended by hundreds of East Palestine residents. The train operator agreed to attend, but then withdrew due to safety concerns.
Regan visited the town Thursday and observed some of the remediation efforts following the hazardous train derailment. The EPA was prepared to partner and provide necessary resources in the scene, despite the state’s primary responsibility.
The governor of Ohio wants the CDC to dispatch medical experts to East Palestine to help people with any questions or health symptoms.
DeWine stated that emergency response teams have plans in place to prevent pollutants from washing into local waterways during the storms, which will be in the forecast.
DeWine said the Ohio Department of Agriculture continues to assure Ohioans that its food supply is safe and the risk to livestock remains low following the train derailment.
The mayor told reporters at Wednesday’s meeting that they either detonated the tanks or blew them up. The harmful chemicals went into the air. We had just one option and I am truly sorry, but that is it. If we did not do that, they were going to blow up and we were going to have bombs all over the place.
Ohio Train Derailment East Palestine Thursday: A Family in East Palestine and a Tracer of Liquid Biological Parameters
“I need help,” Conaway told reporters Wednesday night. “I have the village on my back, and I’ll do whatever it takes … to make this right. I don’t going somewhere, I’m not leaving.
Nate Velez, who said he lives less than half a mile from where the train derailed, told CNN on Wednesday night that the company’s absence from the meeting was “a slap in the face.”
Most of the people didn’t want to go home, but they had to. So, all the people who had to go home were complaining of smells, pains in their throat, headaches, sickness,” he said. “I have gone back a few times, and the smell does make you sick. It hurts your head.
It was extremely disappointing that they didn’t show up for the town hall meeting. The public deserves transparency,” he said. The public deserves to know what is going on. And so it’s our job, as the federal government, to hold this company accountable, and I promise you we will.”
A family has lived in East Palestine for decades near a contaminated creek, but now they are staying at a hotel paid for by the railroad due to toxicity from the derailing.
According to Cozza she was told by the railroad company that it was safe to return home after air testing. She insisted the railroad company run soil and water tests and a toxicologist determined her house to be unsafe.
If I hadn’t used my voice, I wouldn’t be sitting in this house right now, when they told me that it was safe.
A Health Clinic to Support East Palestine Residents after the February 3 Frequency-Train Derailment: The Case of Sulphur Run
“My concern is how many of those kids are laying in their bed in East Palestine right now that are not safe,” she said. “I absolutely do not trust them.”
The nation’s top environmental official is headed to East Palestine, Ohio, where the state is opening a health clinic Tuesday as worry and frustration linger in the community more than two weeks after the fiery derailment of a train carrying toxic chemicals.
US Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan will return to the town Tuesday to meet with residents and local and state officials, an EPA official with knowledge of the visit told CNN.
The visit comes as residents of the small town of 5000 are concerned about the health effects of the February 3 wreck of a Norfolk Southern freight train and subsequent release of a toxic chemical.
The US Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention is expected to arrive in the community this week to help assess the situation.
Still, life has been upended in East Palestine as residents question the findings and whether their water is safe to drink or if the air is safe to breathe.
We should never stop looking at this community for possible health impacts. Some may not occur until later,” said Haynes, adding that anyone experiencing health symptoms should take them seriously and call the poison control center.
The impacted portions of Sulphur Run are being treated with booms, aeration, and carbon filters. The teams are working with experts to collect soil and groundwater samples to make a plan to address any pollution left in the stream banks.
“The takeaway is that anyone along the Ohio River where the contaminants made their way can breathe a sigh of relief,” he said. “There’s little risk to our water supply from the train derailment site and temporarily shutting down the water treatment plant and not pulling from the river until the spill passed should give us all peace of mind.”
Maysville utilities temporarily shut down the Ohio River intake valve due to the public concern, but water readings have been below the level of concern.
The Impact of a Toxic Rail Car on Long-Term Safety at Norfolk Southern Railway and the Concerns about Water, Air, and Soil
Meanwhile, the majority of the hazardous rail cars remain at the crash site as investigators continue to probe the wreck, but about 15,000 pounds of contaminated soil and 1.1 million gallons of contaminated water have been removed from the scene, Norfolk Southern announced Monday.
The issue of contaminated soil came to the fore last week, after a public document sent to the EPA on Febuary 10 did not include soil removal. It is not yet known what significance or impact the soil that was not removed before the railroad reopened on February 8 will have had on the surrounding areas.
As skepticism spreads about the safety of the air and water, some local business say they’ve seen fewer customers, despite calls to return to normal life.
A stylist at a hair salon also told the station there’s no doubt the salon lost business and that customers may be worried about what may be in the water washing their hair.
Local greenhouse owner Dianna Elzer said that many businesses are already suffering because people aren’t coming here.
The US transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg, along with a number of others, demanded accountability and increased safety regulations after the toxic wreck.
Shaw said that they have implemented testing to make sure the safety of East Palestine’s water, air, and soil.