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One-third of U.S. population affected by pollution from 2023 Ohio train derailment accident: study

   Xinhua   08:56, June 21, 2024

LOS ANGELES, June 19 (Xinhua) -- At least 16 states and 110 million people, or one-third of the U.S. population, were affected by toxic chemicals released during the 2023 disastrous train derailment accident in Ohio, according to a new study released on Wednesday.

A train derailment occurred in East Palestine, Ohio on Feb. 2, 2023, involving about 50 freight train cars from Norfolk Southern Corporation, of which 38 derailed and at least 11 cars were carrying a variety of hazardous materials.

The accident and subsequent fire resulted in the emissions of large amounts of hazardous compounds to the ambient atmosphere over many days, said the study published in the academic journal Environmental Research Letters.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison used precipitation chemistry measurements routinely collected by the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP) to estimate the spatial extent and chemical compounds deposited as a result of the accident.

Researchers said the robust measurements of the NADP network clearly show that the impacts of the fire were larger in scale and scope than the initial predictions, and likely due to the uplift from the fire itself entraining pollutants into the atmosphere.

The study revealed a large areal impact from the U.S. Midwest through the Northeast and likely Canada, and perhaps as far south as the state of North Carolina, including portions of 16 states, reaching 1.4 million square km.

David Gay, lead researcher and coordinator of the NADP, which has been monitoring pollution deposited across North America in precipitation for over 40 years, said in a statement that "our measurements not only show the expected high chloride concentrations, but also the vast geographical area they covered."

"However, even more surprising are the unexpectedly high pH levels (more basic) and exceptionally elevated alkali and alkaline earth metals, exceeding the 99th percentiles of the last 10 years of measurements," he said.

"All of these pollutants are important in the environment because their accumulation has an impact on the Earth's aquatic and terrestrial environments in many ways," he added.

Norfolk Southern Corporation announced in April that it has reached a 600-million-U.S.-dollar agreement in principle to resolve a consolidated class action lawsuit relating to the East Palestine derailment.

If approved by the court, the agreement will resolve all class action claims within a 20-mile radius from the derailment and, for those residents who choose to participate, personal injury claims within a 10-mile radius from the derailment, according to the company.