EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WKBN) – Two weeks ago, the people of East Palestine were told by the Environmental Protection Agency that their soil was fine. Last week, it was the air they’re breathing, which is OK too. On Thursday evening, they were told there’s no problem with the water they’re drinking too, at least, not yet.
Three months after the train derailment, 45 people attended Thursday evening’s EPA meeting in the basement of East Palestine’s First United Presbyterian Church. They learned that the water they’re drinking is safe.
“To date, we’ve seen no contaminates of concern as it relates to the train derailment situation. So right now, status quo is good,” said the EPA’s Mark Durno.
Laura Fauss of the Columbiana County Health Department said her office is handling the testing of water wells while a company called Stantec is sampling for Norfolk Southern.
“We take all of our samples to a separate laboratory and they use their laboratory. So you’re getting separate results from us and that is a good thing,” Fauss said.
Fauss said East Palestine’s municipal water supply started being tested on Feb. 10, a week after the derailment. Private well testing began on Feb. 12. They’ve done 398 total tests.
At first, they were testing for 180 chemicals, but that has since been reduced to 29 chemicals related to the derailment site.
“The key to the drinking water is long-term monitoring,” Durno said.
Durno says sentinel wells have been set up around East Palestine that would detect hazardous chemicals long before they hit private wells and the municipal system.
“The municipal drinking water system is up gradient, speaking in groundwater terms, from the derailment site. So we’re not concerned about the municipal wells being impacted,” Durno said.
East Palestine business owner Diana Elzer had a question that went unanswered.
“Is there anything that can be done once it gets to the sentinel wells to keep it from getting to our municipal wells?” she asked.
Durno says the key is long-term monitoring of all the water.
Durno: “We have a plan to monitor the wells for a long period of time within the next couple of years, but it’s the longer term that we still need to figure out.”
Reporter Stan Boney: “How long is long? Ten years?”
Durno: “Could be. Could be 10 years, could be longer.”
Fauss says the Health Department will continue with regular testing until the derailment site is clean and regular testing will continue in some form even after that.
The EPA will host its fourth in its series of informational meetings next Thursday at 6 p.m. at First United Presbyterian Church. The subject next week will be surface water.