Recent Train Derailment Contaminates Ohio River with Butyl Acrylate

ohio river train detrailment water contamination

(Credit: AP Photo)

by | Feb 16, 2023

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ohio river

(Credit: AP Photo)

Health officials and environmental agencies in West Virginia are monitoring the Ohio River following the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment on February 3rd.

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice’s office has said officials detected “low levels” of butyl acrylate had reached the Ohio River through its tributary, Little Beaver Creek, along the Ohio-Pennsylvania-West Virginia border. The North Fork of Little Beaver Creek has its own tributary, Leslie Run, that flows through East Palestine, Ohio.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, butyl acrylate is a clear, colorless liquid and has a characteristic fruity odor. It is used to make paints, coatings, sealants, and other similar products. The Center says the chemical is less dense than water and can form a slick surface on the water. 

The governor’s office says when the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, and the Bureau for Public Health first learned of the chemical spill from the train derailment, they immediately contacted five water systems along the Ohio River that could be impacted by the spill.

The US Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency have said nearby soil was also impacted at the site of the train derailment, but West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection says they are “not aware of any impacts to soil in West Virginia. 

According to the NRDC, our health is being threatened by water pollution, which results in more deaths annually than war and all other types of violence combined. In addition, our sources of drinkable water are limited, with less than 1% of the world’s freshwater accessible to us. If no action is taken, these challenges are predicted to worsen by 2050, when the global demand for freshwater is expected to increase by one-third compared to current levels.

The Clean Water Act

The fundamental principle of American environmental regulations is the Clean Water Act. This legislation originated from the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 and aims to safeguard streams, rivers, lakes, and bays across the United States.

The regulation has undergone several modifications in recent times. During President Barack Obama’s administration, the EPA introduced the Clean Water Rule, also known as Waters of the United States, in 2015. The primary aim was to cater to the apprehensions of conservationists, who expressed worries about 117 million people relying on waterways that did not receive explicit protection under the Clean Water Act. The rule also established the waterways that are eligible for federal protection and addressed recent Supreme Court decisions that complicated the safeguarding of most streams and wetlands.

After a long wait, the Biden Administration, with the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers, has issued the definition of “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972 (The Clean Water Act). The final rule is the most recent interpretation of the federal jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act over private and public land use decisions that impact the nation’s wetlands and drainages. As per federal administrative law, the rule will become legally binding on March 20, 2023.

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