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Researchers give update on findings in testing, samples in East Palestine

WDTN Dayton 4/3/2023 Anna Marsick
© Provided by WDTN Dayton

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WKBN) — River Valley Organization held a virtual meeting to provide an update on the research being done in East Palestine following the Feb. 3 train derailment.

In Sunday’s research update, Andrew Whelton from Purdue University says his team has made four trips to East Palestine. They’ve collected hundreds of samples on wells, household water, creeks and soil.

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The team is helping people answer four questions:

  • What chemicals should we be looking for?
  • Where do the chemicals go?
  • How do you return infrastructure or homes to safe use?
  • What were/are the chemical exposures?

They are screening for a variety of different compounds:

  • Water pH, temperature
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOC)
  • Semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOC)
  • Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)
  • Total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH)
  • Heavy metals (iron, lead, zinc, etc.)
  • Ions (sulfur, phosphorus, etc.)

Whelton says in order to calculate health risks from exposure, agencies should all be testing for the same chemicals — whether it’s soil, water or air.

“Agencies were not actually aligning what they were testing for, even though they were under a unified command and umbrella,” Whelton said. “We encourage them to start testing for things across the board, and we hope they move in that direction.”

Whelton says he spoke to homeowners who had tests done. To his knowledge, Norfolk Southern has not made any testing data publicly available.

“It’s unclear exactly what Norfolk Southern is looking for, if they found the same list, if they’re looking for other chemicals,” Whelton said.

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Whelton says as they continue their research on those who have been affected, he wants to know where the plume of chemicals traveled.

“We need an atmospheric model to show where the plume went, where the material deposited,” Whelton said. “From there, you can overlay that with geography and find out, is that within the 20-mile radius?”

He says because this has not been released, he isn’t sure how soil testing plans are being made.

Erin Haynes from the University of Kentucky is working to help people who have been exposed to chemicals. She created a breakdown on what you can get tested for.

All researchers on the live stream say they plan to keep conducting research but are facing financial pressure because testing is expensive.

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