On February 3, 2023, a Norfolk Southern train carrying toxic chemicals derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, approximately 19 miles from Salem, Ohio. Emergency crews conducted a controlled burn of the spill on the request of state officials, which released hazardous chemicals into the air. As a result, residents within a 1 mi (1.6 km) radius were evacuated, and an emergency response from agencies across three states was initiated.
The incident has generated questions from Salem citizens about the impact to the water and air quality in Salem. The Ohio EPA and the Columbiana County Public Health Department have stated there is no impact to the City of Salem based on this incident.
The EPA, Salem Utilities Department and Columbiana County Public Health have stated that release of hazardous materials in East Palestine will not impact water quality in Salem. The wind pattern blew the plume eastward toward Pennsylvania, and Salem was not in its path.
Salem Air Quality
The EPA and experts do not believe Salem’s air quality has or will be impacted by the train derailment in East Palestine. The wind direction blows in an easterly direction toward Pennsylvania and not toward Salem.
What is Salem Doing in Response?
City staff has reached out to state, federal, environmental, and public health agencies for as much information as we can gather. These agencies are very busy handling the immediate issues in East Palestine, but are providing us with information as quickly as possible.
Thus far, there has been no indication we have been affected, but we are working on doing precautionary air and water testing in Salem to confirm there has been no impact.
Are We Prepared?
- Emergency Operations Plan.We have an Emergency Operations Plan in place that is updated every few years. The plan covers many potential hazards, from pandemics and terrorist attacks to tornadoes, floods, winter storms, transportation incidents and hazardous materials spills. Each incident is different, requiring varying degrees of emergency management and mitigation. Our plans must be adaptable to meet any and all situations that would occur. We plan for all possibilities, and adjust our response to the specific incident accordingly.
- Emergency Preparedness Training.Our staff is trained in incident management topics such as hazardous materials and mass evacuation techniques, for example. Police, Fire and EMS regularly attend emergency management training. We also work closely with Columbiana County, the State of Ohio, and the federal government during emergency incidents, calling in additional resources as required.
- Source Water Protection Plan (SWPP). Our Source Water Protection Plan (SWPP), which is required by the EPA, is an Emergency Operations Plan specific to water operations. This plan identifies activities or projects needed to mitigate existing and future threats to source water quality and to improve the resilience of the water supply.
- Risk and Resilience Assessment (RRA). Provided to the EPA, this assessments evaluates the vulnerabilities, threats, and consequences from potential hazards involving our water system.
As we continue to gather information and monitor the situation in Salem, we will be:
- Performing weekly water quality testing in Salem as a precaution.
- Learning from the event, the emergency response, and the lessons learned by those responding to the East Palestine incident, we will be updating our Emergency Operations to include this new information.
What is Norfolk Southern’s Safety Record – Akron Beacon Journal
Columbiana County East Palestine Health Information
United States EPA East Palestine Updates
Ohio EPA East Palestine Updates
Norfolk Southern Derailment Updates
Ohio Attorney General Yost Sues Norfolk & Southern
State Senator Rulli’s Statement
State Representative Robb’s Statement
Letter to Governor DeWine from Senator Sherrod Brown
Gov. DeWine says Congress must act after train derailment (Columbus Dispatch)
National Transportation & Safety Board (NTSB)
Ohio EPA Public Interest Center: (614) 644-2160
CTEH Toxicologists hotline: (234) 542-6474