BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – The Erie County Water Authority said it has begun “daily sampling and testing of its source water” following the Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio that spilled hazardous chemicals in early February.
So far, the organization said Tuesday, daily testing of water in Lake Erie, the Niagara River and treated water supplies has not detected chemicals involved in the train derailment – including vinyl chloride, a known carcinogen that was burned following the accident.
“This testing is being completed to provide additional assurance to our customers that no evidence exists of the migration of these chemicals to our water system,” the ECWA said in a statement.
Government officials ordered temporary evacuations in the areas surrounding the crash, near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border roughly equidistant between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, but have since said it is safe to return. Many community members, however, continue to express concerns about the air and water quality since the incident, the Associated Press reported.
The ECWA last week sought to push back against “increasing rumors, speculation and falsehoods” it said were spreading online about possible contamination relating to the train derailment.
“It is highly improbable that residual chemicals or toxins from the derailed train have navigated to ECWA water sources, including Lake Erie and the Niagara River,” the ECWA said Friday. “East Palestine’s watershed flows southwest toward the Mississippi River and is geographically isolated from Lake Erie’s watershed, making it impossible for chemical residuals from the derailment to enter our area’s water sources.
“ECWA customers can rest assured that their drinking water is very safe and of high quality.”
Last week, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation said it has been closely monitoring air quality in our region following the derailment, in conjunction with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the NYS Department of Health. So far, they said, no impact to human health has been detected.
The ECWA said its daily testing began last week in partnership with the Erie County Health Department and County Executive Mark Poloncarz. That means it started approximately a week and a half after the derailment.
“ECWA has a nationally recognized drinking water quality program that monitors its treated water supply 365 days a year to assure customers that their drinking water is very safe and of high quality,” the organization said in Tuesday’s release. “ECWA will continue to work with the County Executive and the county health department in testing its source and treated water supplies for the foreseeable future as it monitors the ongoing situation related to this unfortunate accident in Ohio.”
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Nick Veronica is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a Digital Executive Producer in 2021. He previously worked at NBC Sports and The Buffalo News. You can follow Nick on Facebook and Twitter and find more of his work here.