Testing Shows No Signs of Soil, Water Contamination in Pa. From Ohio Train Wreck and Chemical Burn

Train Derailment Ohio

This photo taken with a drone shows portions of a Norfolk and Southern freight train that derailed Friday night in East Palestine, Ohio are still on fire at mid-day Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

By Ashley Adams

March 23, 2023

The state DEP has been testing soil and water samples from areas in Beaver and Lawrence counties that were impacted by the Norfolk Southern train derailment and subsequent chemical burn across the state line in Ohio last month.

Preliminary results from soil and water tests in Beaver and Lawrence counties show no signs of contamination from the Norfolk Southern train derailment and subsequent chemical burn early last month, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

DEP has been conducting independent soil and water sampling throughout the affected area to monitor any contamination risks related to the train wreck in East Palestine, Ohio, which borders Beaver County. 

No one was hurt in the wreck, but concerns that the chemicals could explode led Ohio officials to approve releasing and burning toxic vinyl chloride from five tanker cars and to evacuate half of East Palestine and the surrounding area, including Beaver County.

DEP analyzed water samples collected from private drinking water wells for vinyl chloride, along with ethanol and glycol — two other chemicals of concern that were on the train cars when they derailed. 

The state department also collected soil samples from properties within a 2-mile radius of the wreck site in Pennsylvania to determine any impacts from the soot and ash. Properties were selected for sampling based on reported ash and other materials deposited from the incident. 

Levels of dioxins came back within expected background levels for a rural area, according to DEP. Dioxin is a carcinogenic chemical compound that is a byproduct of combustion and found throughout the environment. 

Final results and analysis are expected back in the coming weeks.

“The negative results are an encouraging sign for Pennsylvania residents,” Rich Negrin, acting DEP secretary, said. “DEP will continue collecting samples over the next several months and the commonwealth will continue to lead the way so that Pennsylvanians are aware of and protected from any threats to their safety and resources that may arise.”

State government agencies plan to maintain a long-term physical presence in rural Darlington Township, Beaver County, to continue assisting residents impacted by the derailment. 

Starting Thursday, staff from the Pennsylvania Departments of Agriculture, Environmental Protection and Health will be onsite at the Darlington Township building, 3590 Darlington Road, every Thursday from 12 to 5 p.m. to meet with residents.

More information on the Pennsylvania response to the train derailment can be found on the Train Derailment Dashboard

Earlier this month, Norfolk Southern agreed to pay Pennsylvania $7 million to cover the cost of the response and recovery for state agencies, fire departments, and business and residents in Beaver and Lawrence counties.


  • Ashley Adams

    In her 16 years in the communications industry, Ashley Adams has worn many hats, including news reporter, public relations writer, marketing specialist, copy editor and technical writer. Ashley grew up in Berks County and has since returned to her roots to raise her three children.

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