Ohio DNR Says Train Derailment Killed Nearly 44,000 Fish & Other Aquatic Creatures

Ohio water toxic
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Earlier this month, a freight train carrying a vast amount of toxic chemicals derailed and caught fire in the town of East Palestine, Ohio.

Of the 150+ cars on the train cars, 20 were carrying hazardous materials, including chloroethene (vinyl chloride), butyl acrylate, 2-ethylhexyl acrylate, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, isobutylene, combustible liquids, and benzene residue.

Fearing an explosion, Norfolk Southern emergency crews conducted a controlled burn of a handful of tanks. The burn caused a massive black cloud of smoke, releasing phosgene and hydrogen chloride into the air.

Many residents were asked to evacuate the area until normal levels of air quality returned.

But perhaps one of the most dangerous parts about the explosion, is the fact that investigators found runoff from the cars making their way into the soil and nearby waterways, and draining into the Ohio River.

And now, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), the runoff killed a mind boggling 43,785 fish and other aquatic creatures.

A press release states that ODNR officials conducted a survey along a 7.5 mile stretch that runs from the derailment site, to Little Beaver Creek, a federally designed Wild and Scenic River that runs through Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Of the near 44,000 creatures killed, 38,222 were minnows.

The press release states:

“The ODNR also estimated the total number of other aquatic life killed as a result of the derailment, including small fish, crayfish, amphibians, and macroinvertebrates. This number is approximately 5,500.”

In a video conference, ODNR Director Mary Mertz said that all of the deceased creatures died within 24 hours of the chemical spill:

“We have had officers and personnel on the site every day, and they haven’t seen any evidence of distress since the spill occurred. Our belief, based on everything we’ve seen, and we have been looking in great detail, is that this was an immediate kill.”

On February 14th ODNR Communications Director Stephanie O’Grady said that most appeared to be suckers, darters, and sculpins.

The agency is continuing to monitor a population of endangered hellbender salamanders downstream from the spill site, but Mertz said that they haven’t discovered an immediate threat to the creatures:

“It wouldn’t be obvious if they either died or suffered distress. We’re working to bring (the necessary) technology into place so that we can survey and see if there has been any damage. We haven’t seen anything yet.”

Lastly, Mertz added:

“It’s important to stress that these small fish are all believed to have been killed immediately after the derailment.

Because the chemicals were contained, ODNR has not seen any additional signs of aquatic life suffering in the streams. We are continuing to monitor and assess the environmental impact during cleanup.”


A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock