Following the train disaster in East Palestine, Ohio, the West Virginia Emergency Management Division released a statement on Tuesday saying that, at the instruction of Governor Jim Justice, the department is regularly monitoring the water and air quality throughout West Virginia.
A train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, on the evening of February 3, 2023, and the word was sent to the West Virginia Emergency Management Division (WVEMD) Watch Center. After being informed, WVEMD immediately activated the State Emergency Operations Plan and notified relevant State agencies and local emergency managers.
West Virginia Emergency Management Division (WVEMD), West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP), and West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (WVDHHR) have been keeping a careful eye on the situation since the original notification at the governor’s request.
Little Beaver Creek, a little stream near the state line between Ohio and Pennsylvania, carried trace amounts of butyl acrylate into the Ohio River. The WVDHHR’s Bureau for Public Health (BPH) immediately began contacting the five water systems along the Ohio River that potentially be affected, recommending, out of an abundance of caution, to shut down all water intakes until more information could be obtained. Out of an excess of caution, the Weirton PSD moved to a different water source after discovering contaminants at their intake.
WVDHHR, as the state agency responsible for regulating drinking water safety, maintains constant communication with all water systems in the state that get their water supply from the Ohio River. Recent results from continuing water sampling have shown that butyl acrylate is not detectable in either raw or processed water supplies. The process of water testing will go on.
Moreover, WVDEP is collaborating with the Ohio EPA, the U.S. EPA, and the Ohio EPA to monitor and track the chemical as it travels down the Ohio River.
Mile 199 on the Ohio River, about 22 miles upstream of Ravenswood, is where the chemical plume was identified on Monday at 3 p.m., and it was moving downstream at a speed of 1 mph. It is presumed to be near Ravenswood right now.
The United States Agency established provisional Health Guidance Values for water quality for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). As the plume moves downstream, the current measurements continue to fall below the ATSDR safe levels.
A water intake for the city of Huntington is located about seven miles away. Thus, the tests are being done at that distance. West Virginia American Water is also taking preventative measures by installing a water intake on the Guyandotte River.
Multiple sites along the Ohio River are still monitored daily by the WVDEP in coordination with ORSANCO.
When it comes to checking on air quality, the WVDEP is in touch with both the Ohio and federal EPAs. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has been continuously monitoring the air around the Ohio train disaster site and has found no detectable quantities of pollutants. Due to the incident, no deterioration in air quality has been noticed by WVDEP air monitoring stations in the Northern Panhandle.
Dr. Matt Blackwood, EMD’s Deputy Director, has stated, “EMD will continue 24/7 surveillance throughout this crisis, notifying officials of any change in the situation.” As a member of the Justice Administration, I am pleased to report that my colleagues and I work effectively together to swiftly put into place policies designed to ensure the public’s safety.
If a West Virginia resident has questions or concerns about the water quality supplied to their home, they should contact the water company. The state spill line can be reached at 1-800-642-3074 and should be used to report any environmental problems, regardless of their origin.
Since East Palestine and Fort Gay get their water from different sources—the Ohio River and the Big Sandy River, respectively—the government has concluded that the two communities’ water problems are unrelated.