Toxic Emissions From 2023 Ohio Train Derailment Reached 16 States: Precipitation Study

Toxic Emissions From 2023 Ohio Train Derailment Reached 16 States: Precipitation Study
Portions of a Norfolk Southern freight train that derailed the night before in East Palestine, Ohio, on Feb. 4, 2023, still on fire at mid-day. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)
Matt McGregor
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Precipitation carried toxic emissions to as many as 16 states after the February 2023 Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, that triggered a blaze of hazardous chemicals, according to an environmental study.
Measurements of the chemical compounds found in precipitation showed that the area affected spanned from the Midwest through the Northeast, according to a study by scientists with the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP) at the University of Wisconsin.
The chemical debris could have traveled as far north as Canada and as far south as North Carolina, according to the study, published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Environmental Research Letters. The study found high chloride concentrations and pH levels.
“The robust measurements of the NADP network clearly show that the impacts of the fire were larger in scale and scope than the initial predictions, and likely due to the uplift from the fire itself entraining pollutants into the atmosphere,” the study said. ”These results were consistent with the meteorological conditions and atmospheric trajectories, and were not due to highly-concentrated low volume precipitation samples or wildfires.”

‘Volatile Organic Compounds’

The accident, at 9 p.m. on Feb. 3, 2023, involved approximately 50 train cars, including 38 that derailed, the study said.
Eleven of the derailed cars were carrying “volatile organic compounds” that included vinyl chloride that burned for several days, leading to reports of contaminated water and noxious odors, the study said.
The Environmental Protection Agency found “significant concentrations” of acetone, benzene, ethylbenzene, and other chemicals.
“Clearly, for multiple days, hazardous-classified chemicals were released into the atmosphere, both from spilled cargo and from the ensuing fire,” the study said. “However, much of the accident’s impact upon the surrounding population and environment requires further study, including a complete accounting of the emissions and areal impact.”
The NADP is a collaboration between the federal and state governments and scientists who measure chemical pollutants in the North American atmosphere.
The organization collects precipitation samples weekly from about 260 sites in North America.
“Using these measurements, we examined the precipitation chemistry and wet deposition of precipitation acidity and selected inorganic constituents for indication of the accident areal impact on atmospheric chemistry,” the study said.
NADP compared data from the previous 11 years to the week of the train derailment and the following week.
“For this analysis, data from 9,800 samples were used, with 9,049 being valid samples for pH and other analytes,” the study said. “Of these, 8,720 samples were from the historic period prior to the accident, 56 samples were from the accident week, and 51 samples were available for the week after the accident.”
The 30 samples from NADP sites in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and New York, indicated that contamination had directly affected those areas. 
The study considered other explanations for the high concentrations of atmospheric pollutants, such as the “widespread injection of aerosols from wildfire or forest fires,” but concluded that those fires aren’t common in the wintertime, which is when the crash occurred.
Researchers found no major forest fires and a “lower than normal” number of fires in the United States at the time.

‘Significant Toxic Organic Flux’

The study estimated that the chemicals spread through precipitation over 14 percent of U.S. land, which includes 16 states and one-third of the population.
“The NADP networks do not currently quantify specific organic compounds that might be more specific tracers of the train cargo, but given the widespread impacts to precipitation documented with currently measured NADP analytes, it is possible that there was a significant toxic organic flux to the earth’s surface,” the study said.
Norfolk Southern didn’t respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for comment on the study.