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Purdue University testing water and soil samples from Ohio train derailment

Preliminary testing reveals toxic chemicals
Posted at 9:17 PM, Mar 07, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-07 21:17:48-05

WEST LAFAYETTE — A group of professors and researchers from Purdue University are testing samples from the Ohio train derailment.

"It is very important at this moment for us to understand what is being released ... if we know, then can we make the decisions that are better," said Professor Nusrat Jung.

Jung is working to find out what contaminants are in the water and soil

"I think this is a situation where there was probably very significant acute exposure shortly after the derailment, and subsequent combustion of these chemicals. And then I think there might be the potential for, you know, long term chronic exposure, if the environment is not carefully remediated to remove these chemicals," said Jung. "I think we need to kind of be aware of what could happen long term if we're not monitoring the environment carefully using sophisticated instrumentation and also not trying to, you know, remediate the environment,"

Their testing so far reveals toxic chemicals, suggesting widespread contamination in the waterways.

"We're seeing that these chemicals are present in the water, suggesting that the water has been contaminated. We're able to see stuff that other measurement techniques would show to be below a limit of detection. So, some other technique techniques may say, hey, the air is safe, the water is safe, because they are not as sensitive," said Professor Brandon Boor.

The group doesn't believe adequate testing is being done in East Palestine, so they're voluntarily testing soil and water samples to get a better understanding of what toxic chemicals are present.

"At Purdue University, we have very sophisticated instrumentation. We are able to study the air. We are using [a] proton transfer reaction time of flight mass spectrometer. It is [a] highly, highly sensitive device that can detect all the chemical compounds that may be released ... this will, I hope, further help inform what may be ongoing at the moment," said Jung. "We have to remember the environment we live in is all interconnected. What is in the water at some point can be in the air, what is in the air can be in the water, these are interconnected systems. They are not independent of each other."

Once testing is completed, the group will release its findings in a scientific journal.

"People are still experiencing burning eyes, they still have skin irritations, and clearly there is no smoke. So, the symptoms do not go away, the exposure is continuing to happen. So we need to understand what may be the long term mitigation strategies that are required and should be placed in this particular area to protect both men and women and also children who are living in this community," said Jung.

That testing is also vital for Hoosiers as 34 shipments of contaminated soil have already been buried at a landfill near Roachdale.

The owner of the landfill, Heritage Environmental Services, says it made an agreement with the EPA to bury around 2,000 tons of contaminated soil from the derailment site.

Putnam County residents, state leaders and Governor Eric Holcomb are concerned about dioxins, a highly toxic pollutant that can cause cancer.

The EPA has temporarily halted the remaining shipments until Dioxin testing is completed in Ohio.

State and federal leaders argue the EPA should have never sent the toxic waste to Indiana in the first place, without proper testing.

"You just need to know, you need to know what's going in that landfill," said Congressman Jim Baird.

READ MORE: Congressman Baird requests halt of hazardous materials delivery from East Palestine in letter to IDEM

The researchers note Dioxin isn't the only dangerous chemical to test for.

Researchers also state that workers and residents in the Ohio community weren't given the proper PPE and are being exposed to dangerous chemicals.

On March 2nd, the team sent a letter to OSHA calling for the proper PPE.

WRTV will have more developments on this story.