EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WKBN) – Over the past three weeks, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has explained to a full room in East Palestine the situation surrounding the soil, air and drinking water. For weeks, these tests looked good.
However, after the meeting on Thursday on surface water, the EPA’s Mark Durno says that’s a different story.
“We still have a pretty significant contamination in Sulphur Run and we do have contamination in Leslie Run, not as bad. But it’s still contamination we’re going to have to deal with,” explained Durno.
While the contamination still remains, small fish can now be seen in the stream again. Bill Zawiski, the EPA’s Water Quality Supervisor, sees this as a positive.
“Because in our world in Ohio, the biology is the final arbiter of stream quality,” explained Zawiski. “But when I first came here in February, if you’d walk in the stream, no matter where you stepped, there were massive amounts of sheen that came up. You’re not seeing that anymore.”
Zawiski said he’s confident that every fish from the derailment site to Bull Creek died in the days after the derailment.
“Does that mean that stream is never going to come back? Absolutely not. We see this at spill after spill after spill that we go to. Upstream in Bull Creek there are populations of fish and they’re going to move back,” Zawiski said.
Leslie Run is expected to be restored to its full health shortly. However, Sulphur Run still requires more work.
“That’s the one where we need to do further assessment work to determine what the future of Sulphur Run looks like. Do we need to do expanded cleanup work? Do we need more invasive cleanup work? Those are the things we need to figure out and that’s what that assessment will provide,” expressed Durno.
Also among those at Thursday night’s meeting were Ohio EPA Director Ann Vogel and U.S. EPA Region 5 Administrator Debra Shore.