The East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment and chemical spill that occurred earlier this month appears to be directly leading to the deaths of thousands of local animals, with many residents now fearing for their own safety as environmental tests continue. The accident resulted in a fire and the release of hazardous chemicals, prompting authorities to evacuate residents within a one-mile radius of the disaster site.
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, by last Thursday, the dangerous chemicals released into the environment killed at least 3,500 small fish across 7.5 miles of streams.
Many more residents are now concerned that they and their animals may be exposed to chemicals through the air, water, and soil, despite authorities claiming it is safe to return home. In addition, some residents have reported a persistent cough and discomfort drinking tap water.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) noted that vinyl chloride emissions could create smells at levels below what is considered hazardous. Still, it classifies vinyl chloride as a carcinogen, with routine exposure increasing the risk of liver damage or liver cancer. A large shipment of that dangerous chemical was being transported on the now-destroyed train.
The EPA conducted air quality testing and allowed residents to return home after air quality samples “showed readings at points below safety screening levels for contaminants of concern.” After that, however, the EPA wrote a letter to Norfolk Southern, stating that the chemicals carried by the train “continue to be released to the air, surface soils, and surface waters.”
The Ohio Department of Agriculture claimed that the risk to livestock remains low, but the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation is urging members to test their local wells for water contamination.
A local fox keeper named Taylor Holzer reported that two of his foxes broke their legs trying to escape. Another fox got sick and died after the derailment. Holzer said he believes that the animals became sick due to the chemicals in the air.
A woman from nearby North Lima claimed that she smelled chemicals in the air and that the same substances killed her six chickens. The woman alleged that the chickens were fine until the controlled burn was conducted.
Hazardous materials specialist Sil Caggiano told reporters, “We basically nuked a town with chemicals so we could get a railroad open.”
An emergency council meeting for East Palestine has been scheduled on Wednesday to address citizens’ concerns.