Officials continued on Sunday to monitor the environmental impact caused by a derailed train carrying hazardous materials late Friday in East Palestine, Ohio, a crash that led to a large inferno that continues to burn, evacuations, a shelter-in-place order and concerns about air quality.
Trent Conaway, the mayor of East Palestine, assured residents the air and drinking water remain safe after the Norfolk Southern train crash. He said classes at East Palestine schools would be canceled Monday, as would city meetings.
The train derailed in East Palestine, about 15 miles south of Youngstown, Friday evening, according to earlier comments by officials. Of the more than 100 cars, about 20 were carrying hazardous materials, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the incident.
Ten of those cars derailed, including five that were carrying vinyl chloride, the NTSB said in a statement Saturday. The agency said so far it had “not confirmed vinyl chloride has been released other than from the pressure release devices.”
While air and water quality remained stable Sunday, and officials have yet to see abnormal levels in screenings, “things can change at any moment,” said James Justice, an on-scene coordinator with the EPA’s Emergency Response.
Authorities continue to monitor for a “long list” of chemicals, he said – not only those provided to authorities in a list from Norfolk Southern, but also those that can result from combustion.
Officials issued a shelter-in-place order for the entire town of roughly 5,000 people, and an evacuation order was issued for the area within a mile radius of the train crash near James Street.
Both restrictions remained in place Sunday, Conaway said at a news conference. Fire Chief Keith Drabkick told reporters at the news conference the scene remained volatile, preventing authorities from conducting on-scene operations. Crews will not be able to determine the full list of chemicals involved until the fires stops burning, Drabkick said.
Officials urged residents to follow the shelter-in-place orders. On Saturday evening, one person was arrested for misconduct after approaching the scene and getting too close to the train, the mayor said.
“Please stay home. I can’t reiterate it enough,” Conaway said. “Do not come to our town.”
The Ohio EPA is monitoring water quality in local streams, which eventually feed into the Ohio River, a spokesperson said, but the agency does not anticipate contamination to East Palestine’s public water system, which draws from other sources.
The agency installed containment dams in area streams and set up three aeration locations using high volume pumps to treat water and remove dissolved contaminants.
In an email to CNN Sunday morning, a spokesperson for Norfolk Southern deferred all questions to the NTSB.