A video claiming to show the extent of the water contamination in Ohio after the East Palestine train derailment has gone viral with more than 11 million views on social media.
A train operated by the Norfolk Southern transport company derailed close to the town with about 150 cars, including 20 with dangerous materials, according to Newsweek.
The footage was posted by Nick Sortor on 16 February and shows a woman tossing a log into a stream water in the area around East Palestine, with colourful patterns soon appearing on the surface. The people featured in the footage suggest that the log brought up chemicals sitting on the riverbed.
The footage prompted debates on social media regarding the safety of the water in the area after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it was safe.
“Even MORE proof that the EPA is LYING to the people of East Palestine. THIS WATER IS INSANELY CONTAMINATED,” Mr Sortor wrote.
In a 15 February statement issued by Ohio’s Republican Governor Mike DeWine, the authorities said that “new water testing results have been returned to the Ohio EPA. These results show no detection of contaminants in raw water from the five wells that feed into East Palestine’s municipal water system”.
“Test results from the combined, treated water from all five wells also showed no detection of contaminants associated with the derailment. With these tests results, Ohio EPA is confident that the municipal water is safe to drink,” they added.
On Friday, Mr DeWine responded to another viral video, this one shared by Ohio Republican Senator JD Vance, which also showed a so-called “chemical rainbow” in a water stream in East Palestine.
The 16 February video has received more than 4.7 million views on Twitter.
“I know that there’s been some video played on TV circulating of visible contamination in one of the local waterways,” Mr DeWine said on Friday, according to Fox News. “A section of Sulfur Run that is very near the crash site remains severely contaminated. We knew this. We know this. It’s going to take a while to remediate this.”
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency said that “in anticipation of rainfall, emergency response teams have put plans in place to prevent contaminants that have not yet been removed from the derailment site from washing into local waterways during the storms”.
The agency added that the river “Sulphur Run has been dammed both west of the crash site and east of the crash site, leaving an empty creek bed between the two dams in the area of the crash”.
“Teams are pumping clean creek water from the point of the eastern dam, funneling it away from the dry creek bed area, and releasing it back into Sulphur Run at the western dam. This allows clean water to bypass the area of the derailment and prevents clean creek water from picking up contaminants and carrying them into other waterways,” the state EPA said. “As it relates to the rainfall, this process will also control any contaminated rainwater runoff, which will run into the dry creek bed where it will be removed and remediated.”
“The remediation of the water in the direct area of the spill is going to take some time, just as it is taking some time to deal with the dirt,” Mr DeWine said.
“This is not a simple process,” he added. “We’re encouraging people to continue to avoid that area.”
“There are dead worms and dead fish all throughout this water,” Mr Vance said in the footage.
Running a stick along the bottom of the stream, he said chemicals were “coming out of the ground”.
“This is disgusting,” he added.
The press secretary for Mr DeWine, Dan Tierney, told The Independent that “the Senator’s video occurred after our Tuesday press conference where we discussed this specific stream still being contaminated. It is important that the stream be remediated as soon as possible, and we agree with public officials like the Senator who call for a speedy remediation”.
“Out of an abundance of caution,” Mr DeWine told those with private wells to use bottled water.
“East Palestine’s municipal water system, which provides drinking water for most area residents, takes in water from five wells that are located approximately one mile from the derailment site,” the 15 February statement from the Ohio authorities said. “The municipal wells are at least 56 feet below the surface and are covered by a solid steel casing that protects the water from contamination. Before drinking water is made available to the public, water from these five wells is combined at the water treatment plant and treated.”
“Although it was unlikely that any contaminants entered the wells that serve the municipal water supply, Ohio EPA tested the combined, treated water soon after the derailment. Those tests showed no contamination,” the release said.
Mr Sortor criticised Mr DeWine and the EPA on Friday, tweeting that “people in East Palestine are literally SHOWERING with bottles of water due to your ineptitude. FIX THIS MESS. YOU’VE DONE NOTHING BUT DESTROY PUBLIC TRUST IN THEIR GOVERNMENT”.
He accused them of “trying to run away from this problem” but said that “the people of East Palestine WILL win this battle if we keep the pressure up”.
He claimed that the video has exposed the EPA’s “blatant lies about water quality” and that the footage “REALLY woke a lot of people up, and I’m so proud of that. I truly believe without citizen journalists utilizing the new Twitter, the [mainstream media] would’ve continued ignoring this story. We CANNOT let up though. Because as soon as we do, the people of East Palestine will be thrown to the wayside, and I’m not about to let that happen”.
In an update issued by the office of the governor in the afternoon of 16 February, the authorities said the governor has sent a letter “to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requesting that they immediately send medical experts to East Palestine to evaluate and counsel members of the community who have questions and/or are experiencing symptoms”.
The Independent has reached out to Mr Sortor, Norfolk Southern, and the Ohio EPA for comment.
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