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Norfolk Southern pledges support for East Palestine as air quality testing continues following derailment

Officials said 3,500 fish died as a result of the derailment
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Posted at 9:42 AM, Feb 14, 2023

Following the Feb. 3 train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, Norfolk Southern said it provided $1 million to assist in the city’s evacuation last week.

The railroad said 700 families and businesses are being reimbursed for lodging, travel, food, clothes, and other related items.

This comes as the Environmental Protection Agency continues doing air quality tests within the city. Ohio authorities released toxic chemicals from five of the tanker cars after the derailment. Authorities hoped to reduce the threat of an explosion.

Among the chemicals released was vinyl chloride. Officials also said afterward that ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate, isobutylene and butyl acrylates were also among the chemicals the train carried.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, vinyl chloride is highly flammable and is mostly used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic and vinyl products. Short-term exposure to the chemical can cause dizziness, drowsiness and headaches. Long-term exposure can result in liver damage and cancer concerns, the EPA said.

The EPA said it has tested the air quality in 291 homes. It said that none of the homes had any vinyl chloride or hydrogen chloride detected in them.

Over the weekend, the EPA said the state is leading efforts to investigate and remediate impacts on water. This announcement came amid concerns that water in the Ohio River basin has become contaminated.

Downstream in Ashland, Kentucky, officials there said the spill does not pose a risk to drinking water.

Despite the EPA’s testing, there are still many concerns about the long-term health consequences of the event.

"I think there had been already cause for concern and continues to be unanswered questions,” said Professor Miranda Leppla.

Leppla is the director of the Environmental Law Clinic at Case Western Reserve University.

"Some of these are known carcinogens, so we've got potential future risk if this is contaminated, if we've got contaminated water long term. Unfortunately, the reality of these types of chemicals is that we have contamination of our air and water — they can cause long-term health issues of the population they affect,” Leppla said.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources estimated that the train derailment caused 3,500 fish to die in nearby creeks.