Aftermath of Ohio Train Derailment: EPA, Gov. Take Action and Investigate Contamination

On February 3, 2023, a train operated by Norfolk Southern derailed near East Palestine, Ohio, resulting in a massive fire that released a plume of toxic chemicals, including vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate, and ethylhexyl acrylate, into the air.[0] The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stepped in and ordered the company to pay for the clean-up costs, as well as reimburse the community for the trauma inflicted.[1]

The EPA said Norfolk Southern must identify and clean contaminated soil and water, pay for any costs incurred by the EPA, and participate in public meetings.[2] If the company fails to comply, the EPA will conduct the work itself and seek to compel Norfolk Southern to pay triple the cost, along with a fine of up to $70,000 per day.[3]

The Ohio EPA found low levels of butyl acrylate in the Ohio River downstream of the derailment site, though they say the concentrations are low and the river large enough that it poses no risk.[4] To prove this, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and EPA Administrator Michael Regan drank the water in East Palestine in an attempt to show it’s safe.[5]

The National Transportation Safety Board is due to issue its preliminary results on what caused the derailment on Thursday.[6] In the meantime, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro has made a criminal referral in response to the derailment and its effects on the environment and nearby communities.[7]

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has called for stronger regulations after the Ohio derailment, and believes railroad companies who break the rules should face harsher penalties.[1] He is visiting the town on Thursday.

Mary Mertz, the director of Ohio's Department of Natural Resources, said an estimated 3,500 dead fish have been found in local streams, tributaries and waterways, accounting for at least 12 different species.[8] Reports of suffering animals, from dogs and cats to fish and chickens, are piling up.[9] Taylor Holzer, an animal caretaker, lost one of his foxes, and others are in poor condition with swollen faces, upset stomachs, and runny eyes.[10] Holzer’s dog has also begun coughing and gagging.[9]

The Ohio EPA believes that most of the chemicals in the water will pass, and that with some water treatment, it should be safe to consume.[10] The state is continuing to test the water weekly to ensure it remains clean.

0. “Chemical Health Risks from the Ohio Train Accident—What We Know So Far” Scientific American, 16 Feb. 2023,

1. “A doctor near East Palestine, Ohio, details the main thing he's watching for now” NPR, 22 Feb. 2023,

2. “Pennsylvania governor says his office made a criminal referral in Ohio train derailment” Yahoo! Voices, 22 Feb. 2023,

3. “EPA outlines how it will govern rail owner's cleanup of East Palestine” WTOV Steubenville, 21 Feb. 2023,

4. “Ohio train derailment: Experts on toxic chemical risks” STAT, 21 Feb. 2023,

5. “Politicians Are Drinking the Water in East Palestine to ‘Prove' It's Safe” VICE, 22 Feb. 2023,

6. “Misinformation is among the obstacles Norfolk Southern is contending with at the derailment site in Ohio, says the …” MarketWatch, 22 Feb. 2023,

7. “Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro says his office made a criminal referral in Ohio train derailment” NBC News, 21 Feb. 2023,

8. “How the toxic Ohio train derailment unfolded” The Washington Post, 18 Feb. 2023,

9. “Life After the Ohio Train Derailment: Trouble Breathing, Dying Animals, and Saying Goodbye” The New Republic, 13 Feb. 2023,

10. “East Palestine train derailment: Officials share information about dead fish and contamination in waterways amid reports of sick pets” CBS News, 15 Feb. 2023,