Downstream Stories

United States, Ohio, East Palestine


East Palestine, Ohio

A train carrying vinyl chloride, known as a human carcinogen, derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, in February 2023, on the border of Beaver County, Pennsylvania. 

In order to avoid explosions, Norfolk Southern, the company that owned the chemical, conducted “controlled releases” by burning it, despite serious concerns raised by the local community about its harmful impact on health and the environment. The burning of the vinyl chloride results in dioxins, one of the most persistent and toxic chemicals, even at low levels of exposure.

The Norfolk Southern train derailed due to a hot axle that heated one of the train cars carrying polypropylene plastic pellets. 

Less than 15 miles from the derailment site, in Monaca, Beaver County, Pennsylvania, a new Shell Petrochemicals facility has received numerous violations and has exceeded its annual emissions limits since coming online in November of 2022. 

The region is disproportionately impacted by the petrochemical industry.

Downstream Community Stories

Andrew Woomer, from Advocacy Coordinator, Clean Air Council, speaks to the lack of information and emergency aid for the residents, as he works with allies to help residents limit their exposure to Vinyl Chloride and dioxins.

Andrew Woomer distributes masks to residents, with trains passing in the background.

Volunteers work to bring information and water to the community.

The site of the derailment is being cleared.

Siverio Caggiano, Hazmat Specialist, from Buckeye Environmental Network, says that the toxins in the soil and water are still there, and calls for testing with soil samples. He has never seen the burning of chemicals at that level before.

A Toxicologist’s number appears on a sign at the entrance of East Palestine.

East Palestine resident, Jason Trosky, lives less than a mile from the accident site.

East Palestine resident, Jason Trosky, says he sees himself forced to relocate his family.

The cleanup continues.

Residents were left in the dark about the safety of the drinking water in the immediate aftermath of the derailment. Experts called for more testing.

Water being monitored.

Dioxins, a group of extremely persistent toxic chemicals that were likely released from the burning of vinyl chloride and PVC, are being monitored for around the derailment site in East Palestine.

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Shot on location with the help of Local grassroots organizations, including Buckeye Environmental Network and the Clean Air Council. 

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