Ohio train derailment prompts water utility across state lines to take …

Posted By on February 17, 2023

The train derailment in Ohio that spewed out boiling gas, prompting officials to then burn vinyl chloride in five tanker cars in an attempt to dispose of the toxic chemical in a controlled setting, has prompted a water utility as far away as West Virginia to take added precautions as health concerns mount.

West Virginia American Water said Sunday that it was enhancing its water treatment process as a precaution following the derailment of a train hauling chemicals that later sent up a toxic plume in East Palestine, Ohio, which sits near the border to Pennsylvania. The water utility is also going to install a secondary intake on the Guyandotte River in case there is a need to switch to an alternate water source.

The utility noted that there has not been any change in raw water at its Ohio River intake.

"The health and safety of our customers is a priority, and there are currently no drinking water advisories in place for customers," the company said in a statement.


A black plume rises over East Palestine, Ohio, as a result of a controlled detonation of a portion of the derailed Norfolk Southern trains, Feb. 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, file)

In an interview Sunday, East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway told WFMJ that all burning chemicals have been completely put out, but a "massive clean up project" continues with tanker trucks and portable tanks brought in. U.S. and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency officials are monitoring the situation daily, he said.

"The reason for no press conference is right now its a slow process. Were trying to be upfront with people," Conaway said. "I think its going to take a very long time to recover from this."

"Its concerning to me, but the citizens also have to be aware. We have a closed water system. So the water system in the actual village of East Palestine is 100% safe," the mayor said. "Were getting the same numbers from two Thursdays ago before the accident its the same numbers. Our well field is way west of where the accident is and the creek where the water goes down."

About 50 cars, including 10 carrying hazardous materials, derailed on Feb. 3 in the Ohio village of East Palestine. No one was injured in the derailment that investigators said was caused by a broken axle.

A drone photo shows continued cleanup efforts on Feb. 9, 2023, of portions of a Norfolk Southern freight train that derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Three days after the accident, authorities decided to release and burn vinyl chloride inside five tanker cars, sending hydrogen chloride and the toxic gas phosgene into the air. The move was meant to get rid of highly flammable, toxic chemicals in a controlled environment and created a dark plume of smoke.

Environmental regulators have been monitoring the air and water in surrounding communities and have said that so far the air quality remains safe and drinking water supplies have not been affected. However, some residents have complained about headaches and feeling sick since the derailment.

WKBN reported that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sent a letter to rail operator Norfolk Southern stating that another three chemicals ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate and isobutylene were also in the rail cars that were derailed, breached and/ or caught fire.

A Norfolk Southern freight train that derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, is seen on fire around midday on Feb. 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

According to the outlet, ethylhexyl acrylate is a carcinogen that upon contact can cause burning and irritation in the skin and eyes. Inhaling the chemical can irritate the nose and throat and cause coughing and shortness of breath. Inhaling isobutylene, meanwhile, can cause dizziness and drowsiness.

A town hall is scheduled for Wednesday at the East Palestine High Schools auditorium to respond to residents' concerns.

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich said in an interview with News Nation that community members should document what is happening to their own health and take video of any wildlife or fish dying. A federal lawsuit filed Thursday by two Pennsylvania residents calls for Norfolk Southern to pay for medical screenings and related care for anyone living within a 30-mile radius of the derailment to determine who was affected by toxic substances released afterward.


Residents from nearby neighborhoods in Ohio and Pennsylvania were evacuated because of health risks from the fumes but have since been allowed to return.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Danielle Wallace is a reporter for Fox News Digital covering politics, crime, police and more. Story tips can be sent to danielle.wallace@fox.com and on Twitter: @danimwallace.

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