Train derailment in Ohio killed more than 40,000 aquatic animals End-shutdown

Authorities reported that thousands of fish died within days of a chemical spill caused by a derailed train, possibly due to contamination of local waterways.


February 24, 2023

An aerial view of derailed train cars in East Palestine, Ohio

Xinhua / Alamy Stock Photo

In early February, a train carrying dangerous chemicals partially derailed and caught fire in East Palestine, Ohio. Three days later, on February 6, officials held a vinyl chloride controlled burn of five cars to prevent a larger explosion. This generated a huge fireball and a column of black smoke over the site. In the weeks since, officials have reported thousands of wildlife deaths and alarmed residents have been sharing posts on social media about polluted waterways and dead animals.

How many animals have died?

Ohio Department of Natural Resources officials said Feb. 14 they believed chemicals associated with the train derailment killed about 3,500 aquatic animals. On February 23, they provided a updated estimatestating that total wildlife kills have now risen to 43,700 animals within 8 kilometers of local waterways.

Why do animals get sick?

The derailment itself, as well as the controlled burning, caused hazardous chemicals from the train to leak into the surrounding air, soil, and water. These included butyl acrylate, ethylhexyl acrylate, and vinyl chloride, the last of which is the most concerning, as chronic exposure can cause liver damage in people. Short-term exposure to high concentrations can cause dizziness and headaches in humans, and kidney and liver damage in other animals, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA has been monitoring the water around the derailment site for these chemicals and says air quality monitoring has not detected contaminants of concern above levels considered safe for humans. But the threshold at which these chemicals become unsafe for wildlife is less well known.

What kind of animals are dying?

An assessment by independent environmental consulting group EnviroScience found thousands of dead animals in the four waterways they sampled: Dead Sulfur Run, Leslie Run, Bull Creek and North Fork Little Beaver Creek. Most of the animals killed were small fish, although the deaths included larger fish, amphibians and crustaceans.

All of those animals are believed to have died “immediately after the derailment,” he said. Mary Mertz at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in an interview with CBS News. The government agency also received reports of three birds and an opossum found dead, which it is currently investigating.

Aquatic animals are especially vulnerable to chemicals in the water, as they are continuously exposed to contaminants. Authorities maintain that the wildlife killed in the days after the derailment did not include any threatened or endangered species.

Are pets or livestock at risk?

There have been anecdotes of farm animals and pets becoming sick after the incident, including several dizzy foxes, a pet cat with congestive heart failure, and a flock of sick chickens on a local farm, but these have not been officially linked to the dangerous chemicals. that leaked from the train. Despite this, Brian Baldridge at the Ohio Department of Agriculture told the residents on February 14 that “there is nothing that we have seen with cattle that is cause for concern.”

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