Firm detects carcinogens in water near East Palestine

  • A private firm has found carcinogens in surface water near East Palestine, Ohio
  • The firm says Ohio's EPA missed carcinogens due to a higher minimum detection threshold
  • The long-term impact of chemicals on animals and humans remains unclear

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (NewsNation) — An independent environmental firm has identified “probable carcinogens” in river water around East Palestine that it says the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency did not find.

Justin Johnston with Pittsburgh-based Big Pine Consultants has been on the ground since the early days following the Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern train derailment.

The Ohio EPA shared the results of its air and water testing but Johnston decided to collect samples on his own. He says his tests found low levels of six “probable carcinogens” that the Ohio EPA didn’t detect.

“These can be dangerous in very small amounts,” Johnston said. “The goal is zero.”

The environmental firm could not definitively determine whether the compounds it found in the waters around East Palestine came from the controlled burn officials conducted following the derailment, but said the test results suggest that they did.

The analysis said the Ohio EPA isn’t detecting the compounds because its minimum detection levels are higher. In other words, their methods are not sensitive enough to find the compounds, Big Pine wrote in its report.

NewsNation reached out to the Ohio EPA and received this response:

“Since Ohio EPA did not observe the methods of collection or analysis you are referencing, we cannot comment on their sampling reports. All the samples published at for the public to review were collected following federally accepted standards. We stand by those results.”

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), there is no safe level of exposure to these types of chemicals.

Johnston says it could be a long time before the impact of these chemicals is truly known.

“These are carcinogens so it’s not going to be an immediate impact, you’re not going to see fish kills, you’re not going to see hot spots for cancer, whether that is in wildlife or if it ends up in people,” he said. “You’re not going to see that answer right away.”

Johnston said the cleanup seemed to work for the spill materials, but he is still concerned about what may have gone into the air and come back down.

“It’s something that should not be ignored,” he said. “We need to be looking more closely at our stream and looking more closely at where these contaminants are going.”

Johnston’s report also determined that the rainbow-like sheen observed in nearby creek beds may have come from Butyl Acrylate or Ethylhexyl Acrylate — chemicals commonly found in adhesives, paints and plastics.

Trending on NewsNation