Officials Are ‘Inconsistently’ Testing For Chemicals In Ohio Town Impacted By Toxic Train Derailment, Researchers Say

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Alexa Schwerha Contributor
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Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include comment from Gov. Mike DeWine’s office. 

Government agencies are “inconsistently” testing chemicals in East Palestine, Ohio, that resulted from a train derailment in early February, an analysis of government air and water test results by Purdue University researchers revealed Monday.

The research team “reviewed government posted chemical testing results for outdoor air, surface water (the creeks), municipal drinking water, and private well water” and found that government agencies “are inconsistently testing for chemicals of concern,” which prevent officials from understanding “the health risks of the people who come into contact,” Professor Andrew Whelton, who led the study, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. The chemicals polluted the air and water after a Norfolk Southern carrying hazardous chemicals derailed in February. (RELATED: EPA Orders Norfolk Southern To Test For Toxic Chemical Compounds After Resident Outcry)

“For example, the State of Ohio has tested more than 100 private wells for contamination but didn’t test for some of the most prevalent compounds in the heavily contaminated creeks like 2-butoxyethanol,” Whelton told the DCNF. “Testing without looking for the chemicals you need to look for is a waste of money and time. This also places decision makers in a bad position where they make statements that are not backed by evidence.”

Chemicals found in the surface water include acrolein, n-butyl ether, butyl acrylate and ethylene glycol, according to Whelton’s Twitter post. He warned that officials need to correct their approach and that “any decisions made using existing data may underestimate the health risks posed to people impacted.”

“By not testing for chemicals of concern, officials cannot determine if certain exposures do or do not pose a health risk,” he told the DCNF.

Whelton’s team made several recommendations to Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), one of which included avoiding creeks which are “hazardous and not access controlled,” according to the Twitter post. They also advised workers not to use aeration equipment, which is used for water treatment, for the same reason.

“My understanding is that agencies are testing the drinking water sources and the treated drinking water for all chemicals of concern,” Dan Tierney, DeWine press secretary, told the DCNF.

Testing results are published on the Ohio Emergency Management Agency website and “represent testing for well over 100 chemicals of concern,” he said.

“In contrast, the Purdue team states its source is untreated creek water,” Tierney said. “Remediation of creek contamination from the derailment remains ongoing.”

The researchers “found no data showing that private wells were contaminated by the spill or the fires,” the post read. The team conducted creek, well water and creek soil sampling in 13 creek locations and 13 private drinking well locations.

They will release “the results in the coming weeks,” according to the post.

“This problem could have been discovered sooner if officials had disclosed their water testing data instead of [withholding] it from the public for weeks,” Whelton told the DCNF. “Officials should analyze the water samples they archived to examine the water they didn’t previously analyze fully.”

The EPA and OSHA did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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