EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WSYX) — On Feb. 3, a freight train with more than 50 cars derailed in eastern Ohio, resulting in a massive fire.
The mayor of East Palestine declared a state of emergency following the crash while crews worked to get the damage contained.
Governor Mike DeWine and Columbiana County officials issued an evacuation notice for people living within a mile of the derailment on Feb. 5, due to the potential of a "catastrophic tanker failure" which could cause an explosion with debris traveling up to a mile.
Around 8 p.m. on Feb. 5, DeWine activated the Ohio National Guard to deploy to the area to assist local authorities.
The Ohio National Guard was on site to assist with traffic control, assess the damage, and provide data including mapping of the damage site as well as air monitoring and gathering samples.
To avoid an uncontrolled blast officials opted to release and burn toxic vinyl chloride from five rail cars sending flames and black smoke billowing into the sky again.
The National Transport Safety Board, though still investigating, believes a wheel bearing overheated and led to the wreck. Twenty cars in total were carrying hazardous materials, 10 of which derailed.
DeWine later said the state wasn't notified of the train prior to derailment because it was not considered "high-hazardous material."
On Feb. 10, the U.S. EPA issued a general notice of potential liability saying Norfolk Southern may be responsible under under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act for the cleanup of the derailment site.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources on Feb. 13 said wildlife officers have found dead fish at Leslie Run, Bull Creek, and a portion of the North Fork of Beaver Creek. The agency said it estimated the length of the affected area as 7.5 miles.
ODNR is working with the Ohio EPA and an environmental company hired by Norfolk Southern, the company that owned the train, to determine the number of fish that were killed.
ODNR reported a fish kill totaling 3,500 and said that number is not climbing. The department said no endangered species were affected.
Tiffani Kavalec from the Ohio EPA confirmed a “plume” of water contamination with firefighting chemicals from East Palestine is making its way down the Ohio River. As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, it was located near Huntington, WV.
“This spill did flow into the Ohio River," Kavalec said. "But, the Ohio River is very large, and it’s a water body that’s able to dilute the pollutants pretty quickly.”
Kavalec says all contaminants at the scene of the derailment are contained and are no longer flowing into streams and tributaries that feed into the Ohio River.
Large pits are being dug, down to the clay level, to remove contaminated soil.
A town hall meeting is being held Wednesday evening to discuss lingering questions that affected residents want answered.