CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – Health officials and environmental agencies in West Virginia are monitoring the Ohio River following the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment on Feb. 3.
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice’s office says officials detected “low levels” of butyl acrylate had reached the Ohio River through its tributary, Little Beaver Creek, along the Ohio-Pennsylvania-West Virginia border. The North Fork of Little Beaver Creek has its own tributary, Leslie Run, that flows through East Palestine, Ohio.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, butyl acrylate is a clear, colorless liquid and has a characteristic fruity odor. It is used to make paints, coatings, sealants, etc. The National Center for Biotechnology Information’s website says the chemical is “somewhat” less dense than water and can form a “surface slick” on water.
The governor’s office says when the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Bureau for Public Health first learned of the chemical spill from the train derailment, they immediately contacted five water systems along the Ohio River that could be impacted by the spill – Weirton, Chester, Cleveland Cliffs, Hooverson Heights and Wheeling. Officials say the BPH recommended the water systems shut down all water intakes from the Ohio River until they could learn more information.
Officials say the Weirton PSD said they detected chemicals at their intake point and switched to an alternate water supply out of an abundance of caution. The governor’s office says as of now, no chemicals have been found in the customer, or treated, side of the water systems. Officials also say they are continuing to monitor the untreated water in their systems and have found no detectable chemicals.
West Virginia American Water also tells WOWK 13 News it is monitoring and testing its water systems and has not found any change to water at the company’s Ohio River intake.
Still, officials with the water company say they will be installing a 3,700-foot water line that will connect to the temporary secondary intake on the Guyandotte River.
Once that’s completed, they will begin using water from the Huntington Treatment Plant – if the water is deemed contaminated.
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) are also working to actively sample strategic points along the Ohio River to test for levels of butyl acrylate and to determine when the chemical will reach drinking water intakes along the Ohio River, the governor’s office says. Officials also say ORSANCO has utilized its Organic Detection Systems, extending the entire length of the Ohio River, to test for chemicals.
According to Justice’s office, by actively sampling multiple areas, officials can allow for the potential need to close water intakes while the majority of the chemical materials pass by. They say using this strategy combined with precautionary treatment strategies to remove the butyl acrylate through water treatment processes will help keep the state’s drinking water supply safe for residents.
Officials with Justice’s office say the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has developed “Provisional Health Guidance Values” for drinking water regarding the train derailment and chemical detections in the Ohio River. Officials say at this time, the levels of chemicals detected in the river are “well below the ATSDR health values.”
The US Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency have said the soil was impacted at the site of the train derailment, but West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection says they are “not aware of any impacts to soil in West Virginia stemming from the incident.”
The US EPA, along with local and state officials in Ohio, are also monitoring air quality around the site, and due to the agencies’ results, the WVDEP says they do not expect the incident to impact the Mountain State’s air quality.
The governor’s office says the WVDHHR, WVDEP and the West Virginia Emergency Management Division are communicating regularly with the state’s Ohio River partners, the Ohio EPA and the US EPA and are continuing to monitor the situation.