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Tags: chemical plume | ohio train derailment | research

Chemical Plume From Ohio Train Derailment Hit 16 States

By    |   Wednesday, 19 June 2024 06:52 PM EDT

A study published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Research Letters revealed that a chemical plume that rose in the aftermath of a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, spread air pollutants to at least 16 states, impacting an area of more than 540,000 square miles, The Hill reported.

A controlled burn of the spilled chemicals led to a massive cloud that extended its reach from New England to North Carolina, causing concerns beyond the immediate crash site.

There were no reported injuries or fatalities from the accident that involved the release of toxic substances such as vinyl chloride, but residents reported rashes and animal fatalities, heightening worries about potential long-term health issues.

The derailment on Feb. 3, 2023, involved a Norfolk Southern freight train transporting various hazardous materials. At about 8:55 p.m. local time, 38 cars derailed, some carrying vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate, benzene, and other toxic substances that were released into the environment. Ground samples collected after the incident revealed elevated chloride levels in several states, including Virginia, South Carolina, and Wisconsin.

The study conducted by scientists at the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene at the University of Wisconsin-Madison noted pronounced concentrations near the border of Canada and New York, a region directly impacted by the prevailing winds.

Although the pollutants dissipated gradually after the incident, the study noted a surprising observation related to precipitation acidity. The usual pH balance of precipitation in the Northeast typically falls on the more acidic side, between 5.2 and 5.8 on a scale where zero is the most acidic. Pure water is neutral with a pH of 7, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

But during the period of the derailment, the researchers documented unusually high pH values in a wide swath spanning the Midwest and Northeast — a distinctive anomaly.

"All of these pollutants are important in the environment because their accumulation has an impact on the earth's aquatic and terrestrial environments in many ways," the study's lead author David Gay, lead researcher and coordinator of the National Atmospheric Deposition Program, said in a statement to The Hill.

The study revealed unprecedented elevations in alkaline and earth metals, with certain measurements ranking within the 99th percentile for the past decade, signifying a potential long-lasting regional effect.

Jim Thomas

Jim Thomas is a writer based in Indiana. He holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, a law degree from U.I.C. Law School, and has practiced law for more than 20 years.

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A study published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Research Letters revealed that a chemical plume which rose in the aftermath of a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, in February 2023 spread air pollutants to at least 16 states.
chemical plume, ohio train derailment, research
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2024-52-19
Wednesday, 19 June 2024 06:52 PM
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