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ODNR estimates 3,500 fish killed by East Palestine train derailment, spill

Spill affected 7.5 miles of streams, ODNR estimates
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Posted at 4:17 PM, Feb 13, 2023

The train derailment and spillage of toxic chemicals in East Palestine on Feb. 3 has resulted in the deaths of 3,500 fish, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources estimates, across approximately 7.5 miles of streams.

ODNR wildlife officers located dead fish in Leslie Run, Bull Creek and a portion of the North Fork of Beaver Creek, ODNR officials confirmed to News 5 Monday. ODNR is continuing to work with the Ohio EPA and the environmental company hired by railcar operator Norfolk Southern to determine the number of fish killed.

Linda Murphy, who lives about three miles from the site of the train derailment, confirmed to News 5 last week that she saw dead fish floating in several locations on Leslie Run. She says her family isn't touching the well she uses for water on her property until they get assurances that it's safe.

“That’s what we bathe in, that's what we drink, that's what we cook with and that’s what I also give to my animals, so it’s a major concern and they could not reassure me the water was safe to drink. They didn’t say it wasn’t and absolutely refrained from saying that it was,” Murphy said.

Watch our report below:

Families want reassurance well water is safe to drink after train derailment

RELATED: East Palestine families want reassurance well water is safe to drink after train derailment

ODNR estimated that as of Feb. 8, the spill killed 3,500 fish, mostly small suckers, minnows, darters and sculpin. Officials with the department will continue to assess the situation during continued cleanup efforts.

As a result of the spill, a West Virginia water utility announced Sunday that it is installing a secondary intake on the Guyandotte River in case there’s a need to switch to an alternate water source, according to Associated Press reporting. The utility noted that there hasn’t been any change in raw water at its Ohio River intake.

About 50 cars, including 10 carrying hazardous materials, derailed in a fiery crash Feb. 3 in East Palestine, Ohio. Vinyl chloride was later released into the air from five of those cars before crews ignited it to get rid of the highly flammable, toxic chemicals in a controlled environment, creating a dark plume of smoke.

Residents from nearby neighborhoods in Ohio and Pennsylvania were evacuated because of health risks from the fumes, but were told on Wednesday, Feb. 8 that it was safe to return home.

"Air quality samples in the area of the wreckage and in nearby residential neighborhoods have consistently showed readings at points below safety screening levels for contaminants of concern," authorities said. Air testing has been conducted 24 hours per day from multiple instruments to ensure the most updated data is reviewed and analyzed.

On Monday, Ohio’s freshman U.S. Senator J.D. Vance issued a statement that read, in part:

“I am dedicated to ensuring that the relevant authorities do not use tests conducted as a permission slip to pack up and go home. This is a complex environmental disaster with impacts that may be difficult to assess in the short term. Long-term study will be imperative. As will long-term commitment to remediation by Norfolk Southern for the property damaged, the wildlife disrupted, and the community scarred by this accident.”

The Village of East Palestine will be holding a Town Hall Informational Meeting on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the East Palestine High School Auditorium, according to a news release from the city circulating online.

East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway will be in attendance, but the news release does not indicate whether representatives from Norfolk Southern or agencies like the EPA will be present.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

RELATED: Norfolk Southern releases Remedial Action Work Plan for cleanup of East Palestine train derailment site

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