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East Palestine Train Derailment: What DEP is Doing


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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.

Water and soil monitoring has been ongoing in nearby communities in Beaver and Lawrence counties. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Norfolk Southern (under EPA order and supervision) have all been collecting and analyzing water and soil.

DEP Water and Soil Sampling and Results

DEP began by sampling private drinking water wells and public water supplies, then added surface waters, and then soil.

See sampling locations, dates, and results as they become available in this easy-to-use interactive map:

Train derailment map

DEP sampled all private drinking water wells and public water supplies (Ellwood City and Beaver Falls) within the two-mile radius of the derailment site and will resampled them in coming weeks. If you live in the two-mile radius and had your private well sampled, you’ll receive a phone call when results are available, followed by a final report in the mail.

Surface waters (streams, rivers, and lakes) were sampled within a one-mile radius. Additional locations could be sampled if threat or source of contamination is discovered.   

Soil is being sampled within the two-mile radius zone and within an area nearly three and a half miles downwind of the derailment site. Sampling locations were determined by placing a grid over these areas. The grid squares measure 2,000 feet by 2,000 feet, and samples are collected where the lines intersect.

By using grid sampling, DEP can evaluate the entire area around and downwind of the derailment site for potential deposition. DEP is trying to accommodate as many individual requests as possible for soil sampling, and if there's a request near a gridline intersection, a sample is taken at that location. All soil test locations and results are posted on the DEP GIS map as they become available.

On February 1, 2024, DEP received an interim summary report from its consultant describing soil and water sampling and analysis conducted to date.

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