On the third day of February 2023 there was a terrible polluting accident in East Palestine, Ohio. A train containing hazardous chemicals was derailed and it spilled into the town’s groundwater. The environmental impact of this accident has been described by sources, like the New York Times, as Chernobyl 2.0.
The Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A) has done several tests to determine the impact on water resources, establishing that there is no indication of risk to public water systems, and yet private services remain untested. This short-term diagnosis ignores the airborne contaminants that could eventually affect wells and other contact surfaces with water, gradually contaminating a range of untested water sources used for drinking.
Rivers and creeks in the vicinity of the accident also suffer from this accident since the released chemicals are toxic to fish. Low levels of butyl acrylate (a chemical used in plastics and resins) have been detected in the Ohio River and this is expected to keep increasing.
As humankind continues to exploit resources and utilize chemicals and other dangerous substances, the threat of major environmental disasters such as the Ohio train derailment increases. Considering the human rights to water and sanitation, which should guarantee safe access to potable water to all populations, accidents of this nature are seen as a violation of the basic human rights. Right now, the impacted area is limited to the town of East Palestine in Ohio. In future, as the toxins permeate the underground aquifers, and travel down river, the lives of thousands of people will certainly be affected, with unknown health impacts and costs, depriving them of their right to health, a clean, safe and healthy environment, and the right to clean and safe drinking water.
Adams, S. (2023) West Virginia Officials Monitoring Environmental Impact of Ohio Train Derailment. CAPITO. Retrieved from: https://www.capito.senate.gov/news/in-the-news/west-virginia-officials-monitoring-environmental-impact-of-ohio-train-derailment
Beard, S. Sullivan, S. (2023) Maps and graphics explain train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. USA TODAY. Retrieved from: https://www.usatoday.com/story/graphics/2023/02/17/train-derailment-ohio-explained-graphics/11251530002/
Thompson, S. (2023) ‘Chernobyl 2.0’? Ohio Train Derailment Spurs Wild Speculation. New York Times. New York, USA.