SALEM, Ohio (WKBN) – A town hall meeting was held Thursday afternoon for farmers in and around East Palestine. There, representatives with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) outlined the process of soil testing. Officials with the Ohio Department of Agriculture also spoke and took questions from some of the 40 farmers in attendance.
The EPA says it will be prioritizing agricultural and recreational areas for soil testing.
“We know kids are getting ready to go out and do high school sports, middle school sports and so forth. We know that the farmers are anxious to get their crops sown,” said the EPA’s Mark Durno.
Starting on Friday, testing will be conducted within a 1-mile radius around the derailment site and another approximate 1-mile radius southeast of the derailment site where the smoke plume traveled.
Chuck Geiss grows corn and soybeans on a 200-acre farm in Unity Township. His farm is just outside of the testing zone.
“The plume came over us. The wind did change directions and it blew to the north, which we’re north … I’d like to see a little bit of testing done outside of that 1-mile radius just to give everybody in a 2 to 3 mile radius a little more comfort level,” Geiss said.
Livestock safety is another concern for farmers. The Ohio Department of Agriculture regularly tests meat for consumer safety.
“When they find something that alerts them, then they contact our vets within that department. Those folks come out, they evaluate the carcasses and make sure that it is safe. If it isn’t, it is pulled out of the food chain,” said Brian Baldridge, director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
Baldridge says none of their testing points to the poisoning of livestock.
“We’ve had over 1,000 slaughters, 35 of them raised the flag as far as that concern, and five of those were pulled out of the food chain. That was for no reasons that led us to believe it was a toxicity of any kind,” Baldridge said.
Baldridge says removing five carcasses out of 1,000 falls within their normal parameters.