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Ohio lab testing for vinyl chloride seeing high demand from East Palestine

Lab hasn't detected targeted compounds
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Posted at 7:42 AM, Feb 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-24 07:42:56-05

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Demand is currently high to get the water tested in and around East Palestine. One lab in nearby Youngstown, Ohio, is testing for vinyl chloride.

Cardinal Environmental Labs has run roughly 10 years' worth of samples in just the last two weeks.

Humans and machines are working to answer a question on many minds: is the water safe?

“We’re at about 200 [tests] right now just from East Palestine,” said Cardinal Environmental Labs owner John Pflugh.

Pflugh is the only person at the lab certified by the Ohio EPA to run a volatile analysis. One chemical he is testing for is vinyl chloride.

“It’s toxic carcinogenic on and on the maximum contaminant level for drinking water is only 2ppb,” Pflugh said.

But that’s not the only concern.

“The vinyl chloride and a lot of people have also requested benzene. There's a particular concern that’s come up later in terms of oil that may have escaped,” Pflugh said.

But the private labs can only do so much. Drinking water tests aren’t regulated for four of the other chemicals that leaked from the train.

The good news is the hazardous chemicals they are testing for haven’t shown up.

“Testing started, I think, the Monday after the incident. No, we have not reported any of the compounds we are looking for,” Pflugh said.

Vials for testing are from all over Columbiana County, including East Palestine, and Negley, which is located south of East Palestine.

Laurie Marks lives in Negley Township, which consists of just under 300 people, and is three miles from the derailment site.

“We see all the help pouring into the neighboring town, of course, Palestine, Darlington, Enon Valley even. Here in Negley, we are kind of being passed over and forgot, we feel forgotten,” Marks said.

Marks says her doctor is treating her for chemical inhalation and spent nearly $400 out of pocket to test her well water.

“We know this open water feeds directly into the wells and into Bull Creek,” Marks said.

Kayla Miller is Marks’ neighbor up Bull Creek where Leslie Run filters in.

“My biggest thing is they tell you one thing everything’s safe, everything’s fine, but we’re seeing another thing,” Miller said.

Miller has a farm where two chickens and three rabbits died 48 hours after the derailment. She won’t let her kids touch the creek this year. Miller said she is not drinking the water.

“I honestly don’t think I’m going to have an issue right now but it’s a precaution, Ut’s going to take time for these chemicals to seep into my well. My well is 135 feet down,” Miller said.

Both Miller and Marks plan to test their water months, maybe years out.

“If it migrated into the soil, it will continue to migrate in the soil. If it’s in the soil, will it get to the groundwater table? It’s entirely possible,” Pflugh said.

Pflugh says there’s no timetable for long-term testing.

“At the very least, we want to establish a baseline and have a clean test now so down the road, if any of this did get into the soil and did migrate from the site, we have this clean baseline sample to fall back on,” Pflugh said.

Cardinal Labs is charging $100 for the testing, down from its normal price.

They want to provide some piece of mind if they can.

This article was written by Tara Morgan for Scripps News Cleveland.