Health Tracking Study Results and EPA Updates Shared

On Monday, February 12, the East Palestine Village Council convened at their bi-monthly public meeting where guest speakers Dr. Erin Haynes from the University of Kentucky, Andy Maguire from the U.S. EPA and Chris Hunsicker from Norfolk Southern presented study findings and other Health and Safety updates.

Health Tracking Study Summary
Erin N. Haynes, MS, DrPH, Professor and Chair of the College of Public Health from the University of Kentucky launched the East Palestine Train Derailment Health Tracking Study in April of 2023 to collect information on residents to assess long-term health effects. So far 380 adult residents of East Palestine and the surrounding area have shared their experiences, concerns and health symptoms during two self-reported surveys and more will be conducted, hopefully with an expanded sample. Over half of those that participated live within 2 miles of the derailment site and nearly 3 out of 4 reported at least one new health symptom after the derailment. Since those initial reported symptoms included upper respiratory issues as well as elevated stress and symptoms of PTSD, the following recommendation was made: Ongoing medical monitoring for the community and follow-up research to investigate long-term lung damage and health effects that can result from high levels of stress.

In addition, several pilot studies to assess biological (blood and urine) and indoor air samples for chemicals associated with the derailment are being conducted. Dr. Haynes presented the results of the Serum Dioxin Pilot Study. Twenty participants were invited and 18 enrolled and provided blood for analysis. Results: Each participant’s value was below or within range of levels found in the 2011 CDC study for their specific age range, race, ethnicity, and sex. 

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EPA Update
Andy Maguire, U.S. EPA, in charge of operations oversight of Norfolk Southern, presented results of a Qualitative Sheen Survey in Sulfur and Leslie Runs. Every 25 feet, in more than 800 locations, testers agitated the sediment to see if discoloration or sheen rose to the surface and then scored the levels. Samples were also taken of the sheen and tested, although specific testing to determine whether the sheen was legacy (pre-existing) or as a result of the derailment were not determined. Any disturbed sheen was collected and removed. In general, the levels of sheen have dissipated over time as testing has continued. In addition, for comparison, four background upstream locations were also tested and showed only light sheen.

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Norfolk Southern Update
Chris Hunsicker, Environmental Operations, Norfolk Southern, provided updates on ongoing water collection and testing. He shared that very soon, after regulatory agencies have approved the data presented, the water collected will be considered a non-hazardous liquid waste, which opens up how water management, storage and disposal can be conducted going forward.

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