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IDEM East Palestine, Ohio Train Derailement Statement

Indiana Department of Environmental Management

IDEM Statement: On February 3, 2023, a Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous materials derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. Several rail cars ruptured, spilling vinyl chloride and butyl acrylate chemicals. Both chemicals are used in industrial processes, primarily in manufacturing plastics and resins. 


Hazardous materials teams from the Ohio and U.S. EPA’s responded quickly and took measures to contain contamination from these compounds. However, low levels of butyl acrylate have been detected in samples of the Ohio River downstream of the incident, but currently far upstream of Indiana water supply intakes along the Ohio River.


The U.S. EPA, The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) and other water utilities along the Ohio River are collecting samples to assess any potential threats to drinking water.


Should levels of butyl acrylate be detected near Indiana water supply intakes, local drinking water utilities may close their intakes to allow the majority of the chemical to pass. Precautionary treatment strategies may also be used to help remove butyl acrylate through the water treatment process.


IDEM’s Office of Water Quality is in close contact with the sampling authorities to track the chemical and to ensure the safety of Indiana drinking water.


Currently, there are no immediate impacts to public drinking water sources for Indiana residents. Hoosiers along the Ohio River should be aware of and refer to future information and guidance from their water utility.

The U.S. EPA is providing regular updates on the East Palestine train derailment, available here: https://response.epa.gov/site/site_profile.aspx?site_id=15933


Here are some talking points from EPA:


What is EPA doing to protect drinking water sources?

  • EPA is working closely with the state of Ohio to ensure that the derailment has not affected drinking water supplies.
  • As you heard from Governor DeWine yesterday, the state is working with local public water systems that get their water from ground-water sources and has conducted testing to ensure they are unaffected.
  • State and local health agencies are ensuring  homeowners get their private wells tested. EPA is able to assist upon request. Until test results are received, the Ohio Department of Health has recommended that residents use bottled water.
  • As requested EPA continues to assist with the collection of samples from surface water for laboratory analysis and sharing those results with Ohio EPA and Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO). 
  • EPA continues to assist Ohio EPA and ORSANCO with actively monitoring the Ohio River. In addition, ORSANCO has an existing network of water monitoring devices located along the entire length of the river.
  • Knowing where the “slug” of contamination is allows drinking water utilities to close water intakes as necessary. The good news is that detected levels are very low, at a level that can be treated by the water utilities.
  • EPA is supporting our state partners and local utilities to ensure the drinking water is safe. Until all testing is completed, residents should remain vigilant and follow the guidance of the Ohio Department of Health.