CONNERSVILLE, Ind. — Utility companies in eastern Indiana are monitoring their water sources closely after a recent train derailment in eastern Ohio.
About 50 cars of the Norfolk Southern freight train, including 10 carrying hazardous materials, derailed on Feb. 3 in the Ohio village of East Palestine. No one was injured in the derailment, which investigators said was caused by a broken axle.
Three days after the accident, authorities burned vinyl chloride inside five tanker cars, sending hydrogen chloride and the toxic gas phosgene into the air. They said that the burn was preferable to the threat of a larger explosion if nothing was done.
The Environmental Protection Agency is closely monitoring the water and air in the region.
“We’ll be ready to do what needs to be done if something needs to be done,” Bradley Colter with Connersville Utilities said.
Colter said he was getting concerned calls from residents who were worried about the toxic chemicals affecting the water supply in eastern Indiana. He decided to consult some local experts.
“They have both assured me that we have no worries with the situation,” Colter said. “At least with the information that we have now.”
However, Colter said he and local emergency management officials are monitoring the water supply closely. He said the one thing on their side is distance.
“With our source being several aquifers away from this contamination,” Colter said. “I feel pretty comfortable that we’re in good shape.”
While the disaster is mostly affecting Ohio, Indiana University Professor Gabriel Filippelli said it could easily happen here.
“Hoosiers don’t need to be extremely concerned,” Filippelli said. “However, I think it’s a good lesson. These trains crisscross northern Indiana carrying sometimes very volatile and dangerous chemicals.”
Filippelli, who serves as the Executive Director of the Environmental Resilience Institute, said he believes the contamination is being contained as much as possible. However, Hoosiers should remain vigilant. He said we won’t see the full effects for quite some time.
“Long-term, these chemicals, particularly vinyl chloride, are carcinogens so that won’t show up in the population within a week or a month,” Filippelli said. “Unfortunately it’ll be years or decades down the road.”
Indiana communities along the Ohio river are monitoring water safety following the derailment.
East Palestine isn’t located along the Ohio River, but officials are worried that water leading into it could be contaminated.
Evansville Water and Sewer Utility said the chances that any of those chemicals reach Evansville are very remote.