Nearly 44,000 fish, animals dead after Ohio hazmat train derailment
By Anadolu Agency
HOUSTON, United States
Wildlife officials in the US state of Ohio have estimated that nearly 44,000 fish and animals have died in the three weeks following the Feb. 3 hazmat train derailment in East Palestine.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) on Thursday released figures which showed that more than 43,700 species of animals and fish have died within a five-mile radius of the toxic chemical spill, according to multiple news outlets.
Wildlife officials estimated that 38,222 minnows and about 5,550 other species -- fish, crayfish and amphibians -- were killed immediately after the hazardous materials derailment. However, they have not observed any other wildlife deaths in the waterways leading to the Ohio River and that none of the species killed were threatened or endangered.
"We haven't seen any signs of fish in distress since that time," said ODNR director Mary Mertz at a news conference. "So because the chemicals were contained, we haven't seen any additional signs of aquatic life suffering. And in fact, we have seen live fish already return."
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said the toxic chemicals released into the air, water and soil after the hazmat derailment included vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate, ethylhexyl acrylate, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether and isobutylene.
Residents have complained of health problems including headaches, nausea and burning sensations in their mouths and many are skeptical about the EPA and ODNR assessments that the air, water and soil quality are safe.
“Obviously, something that catastrophic to that extent has to be doing more to the environment and everything than what they’re saying,” said resident Jacqueline Schmeltz in an interview with the Washington Post.
Schmeltz and hundreds of residents who were evacuated after the disaster want to see long-term testing for contamination.
Environmental officials plan to do just that, but said the long-term environmental impacts are a "difficult question to answer with any precision" and that it will take time for the ecosystem to recover.
"I'm sure it's something we're going to watch for a long time," said Mertz. "I'm confident we're going to bring it back. We do expect a full recovery eventually."
"We know it won’t be quick," she added. "But it’s going to come back."