Hazardous chemicals continue to contaminate East Palestine, Ohio and surrounding areas. So far about 1.8 million gallons of liquid waste and 4,832 cubic yards of solid waste have been extracted from the derailment site, according to Mike Dewine, the Gov. of Ohio. Residents are still worried about the impact it will have on their homes and local food supply. 

What happened with the Ohio train derailment?

The Feb. 3 chemical spill occurred when 38 Norfolk Southern Corp railcars fell off the track in East Palestine, Ohio. Since then, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has increased its estimated number of dead animals in the area due to the spill from 3,500 dead aquatic animals to almost 45,000.

How could this affect food and agriculture?

Ohio is one of the biggest food production states in the U.S. It ranks first for the production of swiss cheese, second in egg production, and third in tomatoes and pumpkin. It’s also one of the top states to produce corn, according to World Population Review and ranks number seven for soybean production.

Ohio has about 75,000 farms. Many of these farmers have raised concerns on how the Ohio derailment will affect their livelihood through the quality of well water and soil. While trace amounts of chemicals spilled from the train derailment have been found in the Ohio River, its connection to the Mississippi River could lead to an impact in other states.

However, according to Haley Shoemaker, OSU Extension educator for Columbiana County, there is little evidence pointing to negative effects on livestock. “We haven't had any verified claims of livestock dying or any huge impacts on agriculture at this time." Shoemaker said in an interview with Farm Progress.

Furthermore, Shoemaker claimed there are no large animal operations in the evacuation area, but there are smaller farms with animals such as horses, goats, feeder calves, and poultry and about 900 total cows about 3 miles from the wreck. How this will affect livestock are unknown.

How could this affect grocery stores

Although experts are suggesting the derailment should have little effect on grocery stores, some places have taken cautionary actions around the area. The grocery chain Giant Eagle pulled water bottles off shelves out of an “abundance of caution” because it was bottled 25 miles from the derailment. Worries about air pollution around East Palestine led two high school basketball teams to forfeit their end-of-season tournament games out of caution when the host schools declined to move them.

What we do know is authorities are claiming immediate danger has passed. And Food Safety News reported  most of the hazardous chemical vinyl chloride has likely broken down by sunlight and evaporated out of topsoil and streams. Testing of local water, soil, and air continues but Ohio’s Agriculture Secretary claim farm animals face little risk from the event. The effects on crops is still unknown.