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East Palestine Train Derailment: What DEP is Doing

What Happened

On Friday, February 3, 2023, at approximately 9:30 p.m., a Norfolk Southern train had 53 cars derail in East Palestine, Ohio. The site of the derailment is less than one mile from the Pennsylvania border. For complete up-to-date information, see:

While we believe there are no known concerns for water or soil quality for Pennsylvania residents, DEP will conduct independent testing of private wells for at least six months and up to one year and continue monitoring surface water and soil quality.   

As laboratory results become available, summaries of preliminary results will be available Mondays. (Note that sampling and testing take time, and results may not be available every week.) Finalized lab reports will be mailed to each property owner whose water or soil was tested. 

Water Quality

DEP is testing water samples for volatile organics, semivolatile organics, glycols, and ethanol to identify five contaminants of concern related to the train derailment: vinyl chloride, ethylene glycol, butyl acrylate, ethylhexyl acrylate, and ethanol.

Drinking Water

DEP is contacting residents within a two-mile radius of the train derailment site to initiate water testing. If you live beyond the two-mile radius and are concerned about whether the derailment affected your well, you may reach out to DEP at (412) 442-4000. We will listen to your concern and discuss what we know about the situation. Determinations for sampling outside of the two-mile radius will be made on a case-by-case basis with the information provided.

As of March 10, 2023, DEP has collected water samples from all of the private wells within the one-mile radius and has completed sampling one third of the wells within two miles of the train derailment. DEP has also sampled the raw water supplies of Ellwood City and Beaver Falls and has started coordinating with all of the public water suppliers within five miles of the derailment to begin testing of their source water.  


March 10, 2023:

Preliminary results have been received for seven wells within a one-mile radius for three of the contaminants of concern: vinyl chloride, ethylene glycol, and ethanol. No contaminants of concern were detected.

Groundwater and Surface Waters

As of March 10, DEP has collected samples from five surface water bodies within the one-mile radius.

Short or long-term impacts to ground water or surface waters (lakes, rivers, streams) are not expected in Pennsylvania from the derailment. DEP performed a geologic assessment of regional Pennsylvania geology through published reports and references. This evaluation indicates that Pennsylvania groundwater, near the derailment site, flows south westward and therefore should not carry any possible contaminants from the site towards groundwater wells in Pennsylvania. The geology of the area would likely slow the spread of any surface contamination to the groundwater below. DEP will continue testing for at least six months to ensure there are no impacts to Pennsylvania.

Within a week after the derailment DEP evaluated surface waters within Pennsylvania for impacts to aquatic life and  did not observe any fish kills or impaired aquatic life. Samples taken by the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) did not show significant levels of pollutants in PA surface waters.

Soil Quality

As of March 10, DEP began collecting soil samples from Pennsylvania properties within a two-mile radius of the derailment site to determine any impacts from soot and ash to agricultural properties from the derailment and the controlled burn of train cars containing vinyl chloride.  

Multiple samples were taken in four areas. Properties were selected for sampling based on reported ash and other materials deposited from the derailment and fire. These samples will be used to help inform farmers about any possible risks ahead of the upcoming planting season.

Norfolk Southern was ordered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to sample residential, commercial, and agricultural soils around the derailment site. Norfolk Southern submitted their proposed plan for soil sampling within a one-mile radius of the site on February 27. Federal and Ohio agencies and DEP provided comments and are waiting for the final plan to be approved by EPA.

Air Quality

Five of the train cars contained the hazardous material vinyl chloride. Norfolk Southern scheduled a controlled vent and burn of the vinyl chloride from all five railcars on the afternoon of February 6. The air plume from the vent dissipated, and air quality monitors around the perimeter of the derailment site did not measure any harmful pollutant levels entering Pennsylvania as a result of the derailment or the controlled burn. In addition, all previously damaged train cars were removed from the tracks. Based on this information, the governors of Pennsylvania and Ohio announced on February 8 that residents may return to their homes and no longer need to shelter in place. There are no long-term air quality concerns related to the derailment.

Additional Information