EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WKBN) – The work to clean up the derailment site in East Palestine is progressing. All the contaminated soil should be gone in about a month. That was some of what came from the informational session on Thursday hosted by the U.S. EPA, the fifth in a weekly series keeping people updated on what’s happening.
Thursday’s EPA update session began with drone footage of the 1,900-foot derailment site showing the excavated and repaired south tracks on the right and the work being done to clean up the north tracks on the left.
“Part of those are the actual burn pits, where the controlled burn took place,” explained the EPA’s Tricia Edwards.
The EPA’s Tricia Edwards and Mark Durno led the discussion of a site that Durno says needed to be cleaned up.
“On the western side of the tracks, we had pretty significant butyl acrylate contamination. On the east side of the tracks, we had pretty significant vinyl chloride contamination. Throughout the whole thing, we had different petroleum-related products,” Durno said.
Pictures were shown of crews at work sampling at depths from the surface down to 2 feet. Norfolk Southern and the EPA are doing separate testing.
“So that the analytics can therefore be verified and we make sure that their labs are working as we see our lab working,” Edwards explained of the separate testing.
If after sampling, the tests show hazardous materials still present, then more excavation will be done.
One man asked about the piles of dirt still on the site.
“If you have contaminated dirt on both sides of the tracks, every time it rains that water is going right back into the ground again,” the man said.
“All of the water is actually captured and we have sumps. The water can drain into the sumps and they can be captured and then that water is actually put into the tanks,” Edwards said.
The soil is being excavated from depths of 2-7 feet. The goal is to clean to residential standards. The north tracks should see trains in two weeks.
The piles of dirt should be gone in a month. Then they’ll clean the area where the damaged rail cars were scrapped.
What hasn’t been excavated yet is the main pit where the controlled release took place.
“We don’t anticipate as much waste, but we won’t know until we open the ground up and collected those samples. So stay tuned,” Durno said.
It was expected that Thursday’s session would focus on health, but that didn’t happen. Instead, the EPA will devote two information sessions to health. They’ll be on Thursday, June 1, and Tuesday, June 6. Both will start at 6 p.m. at First United Presbyterian Church in East Palestine.