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Horror in Ohio: The Lastest on the Toxic Train Derailment Two weeks after a train wreck released toxic chemicals, the scope of the environmental impact is still unknown.

By Caden Pearson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Ohio Gov. Mike Dewine said on Wednesday that water in East Palestine's municipal system is safe to drink nearly two weeks after a train derailed, leaking toxic chemicals into the environment.

DeWine said that new water testing results showed "no detection of contaminants in East Palestine's municipal water system." As a result, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency "is confident that the municipal water is safe to drink," DeWine said on Twitter.

Additionally, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said on Sunday that air monitoring throughout East Palestine "has not detected any levels of concern in the community that can be attributed to the incident at this time."

Senator J.D. Vance of Ohio had raised questions about the safety of non-municipal water and air just two days prior, saying on Feb. 14 that he is "horrified" by the train derailment and that many questions remain unanswered.

There have also been reports that animals are falling sick or dying near the derailment site.

"Is the air and water safe for residents?" Vance asked. "I have heard alarming anecdotes about contaminated waterways and effects on wildlife. I encourage anyone with credible reports of environmental harms to contact my office."

"I am dedicated to ensuring that the relevant authorities do not use tests conducted as a permission slip to pack up and go home," Vance added. "This is a complex environmental disaster with impacts that may be difficult to assess in the short term. Long-term study will be imperative."

Related: How to Strengthen Your Business Against the Threat of Natural Disasters

About the derailment

At around 8:54 p.m. on Feb. 3, a Norfolk Southern Railway freight train derailed on main track 1 in East Palestine, Ohio, during its journey from Madison, Illinois, to Conway, Pennsylvania.

A total of 38 rail cars derailed, including 11 that were carrying hazardous materials such as vinyl chloride and other dangerous materials. The National Cancer Institute notes that vinyl chloride has been linked to cancers of the brain, lungs, blood, lymphatic system, and, in particular, the liver. Other potentially hazardous chemicals were also onboard.

To avoid a potential explosion, Norfolk Southern, the company whose train derailed, conducted a "controlled release" of the chemicals on Feb. 6, which involved burning the chemicals and releasing fumes into the air.

Before the controlled burn, DeWine and Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro ordered the evacuation of a one-mile by two-mile zone surrounding East Palestine across both their states. Evacuated residents were told to begin returning home on Feb. 8.

Investigators have said the derailment was caused by a broken axle.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) has called on the EPA and Ohio EPA to do "full safety testing."

"Hundreds of families in East Palestine were forced to face the horror of fleeing their homes because of hazardous materials in their community," Brown wrote on Twitter.

"@OhioEPA tells my office that 431 homes in East Palestine have requested testing for air quality and 47 tests are complete with no issues reported," Brown wrote in a separate tweet. "They planned to increase the number of testing teams today from 4 to 8. That's promising, but much more testing will be needed."

Inspectors from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have identified and investigated the rail car that triggered the derailment, NTSB said in an update on Feb. 14. Footage from a surveillance camera has indicated that the wheel bearing in a particular rail car was likely in its final stage of overheating before the derailment.

Engineers from the NTSB Materials Laboratory in Washington, D.C., will examine the suspected overheated wheel bearing.

Local concerns

Meanwhile, residents of East Palestine have expressed concerns about the long-term health impacts of the hazardous chemical burnoff, and some have also expressed skepticism about what they've been told by officials.

Marilyn Figley, who raises chickens and produces her own food on her property, previously told The Epoch Times that she isn't sure if her eggs are safe to eat anymore.

"The railroad said they would deodorize and sanitize the inside of our house, but we hired an independent company to do something more comprehensive," she said. "We have tried so hard to be self-sufficient since moving here eight years ago, and we've done a good job. But now, the future is uncertain.

"We have water that is collected [in a container] off the barn, which now is probably polluted. The chickens appear to be fine, but I don't know if the eggs are safe. I called the health department. They don't know anything. The EPA hasn't told me anything. We need to have somewhere we can go to get our food tested."

Dan Shofstahl, who runs a welding business opposite the derailment site with his brother Jonathan, previously told The Epoch Times that locals and people in nearby communities are "skeptical of what they are hearing" from agencies about the aftermath of the derailment and chemical spill.

"There is a lot of mistrust of what we are being told by the railroad, the EPA, and every organization," he said. "There's a tendency to be suspicious of information being released by a company after an emergency like this, and I get it. But to me, my sense is that this is getting so much exposure that there's not a single attorney at Norfolk Southern saying, 'Yeah, we can cover this up.'"

EPA response

EPA Regional Administrator Debra Shore said in a statement on Feb. 14 that the agency's "number one priority" is the health and safety of communities across the region.

"Since the fire went out on February 8, EPA air monitoring has not detected any levels of health concern in the community that are attributed to the train derailment," Shore said. "Air monitoring data was provided to state health agencies on February 8 for review prior to the state's decision to lift the evacuation."

Shore said the EPA had been "leading robust air-quality testing" and that the agency had assisted with the screening of 396 homes under a voluntary screening program offered to residents, "and no detections of vinyl chloride or hydrogen chloride were identified."

Shore added that the EPA and Ohio EPA are collaborating to assess the spill's effects on surface and groundwater. At the same time, state and local agencies are conducting tests in the Ohio River to guarantee that drinking water sources are not compromised.

EPA is providing further assistance to the state in examining water treatment intake points along the Ohio River, Shore said.

Caden Pearson is a reporter based in Australia. Jeff Louderback and Frank Fang contributed to this report.

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