IAMA Environmental Engineer AMA about cleaning up after chemical spills!
I have over a decade of experience in environmental monitoring and remediation for the type of release that occured during the Palestine, Ohio train derailment. I have a degree in Environmental Engineering and currently work as an environmental engineering consultant for clients which include major oil companies, power companies, various industrial companies, and railroad companies. I am not part of the cleanup and monitoring efforts ongoing at the Palestine derailment site, so all the information I have to go off of would be public knowledge, however, I can offer insight into the meaning of the publicly available data.
It is important to distinguish the fate and transport of vinyl chloride (VC) in different media in order to understand the long term effects of the release. VC will naturally degrade in the environment, but at different rates depending on the substrate. VC readily degrades aerobically, so shallow surface soils and shallow groundwater contamination may last only a few days to a few years depending on the amount released and the immediate actions taken by cleanup crews. If the source materials (e.g. contaminated soil) are removed quickly, then the degradation time can be cut significantly. However, if the VC is allowed to seep deeper into groundwater it may persist for several decades under anaerobic conditions. The concentrations of the recalcitrant VC in deeper groundwater would need to be monitored to determine if it may cause adverse health effects (from drinking water).
What about the dioxins that may have formed in the fire?
The total VOCs they are measuring wouldn't capture dioxin concentrations in air, they would need to be evaluated separately. I haven't seen any dioxin measurements yet and I am not aware if they are measuring them at the moment.
This is a problem, combustion byproducts should be the primary thing they're looking for if they torched it... right?
I'm not saying they aren't paying attention to it, just that I haven't seen anything in the public space at the moment.
Do you think the clean up effort after the Ohio train derailment is adequate?
All of the tasks presented in the Norfolk Southern consultant's workplan are consistent with the tasks I would recommend in this scenario (soil removal, area air monitoring, vacuuming up the liquid product at the site, aerated the nearby waterways to promote degradation, etc.). Arcadis is the consultant of record for the cleanup efforts and they are generally a good firm to rely on.
The only thing which I am unsure about is the emergency release of the vinyl chloride to the air. Without additional information, which isn't public yet, I can't really say whether or not it was the best course of action as it sounds like there was a danger of explosion, which goes beyond environmental cleanup and bleeds into mechanical engineering.
I’m in Baton Rouge. Is the chemical spill going to affect water quality in the MS here?
It is highly unlikely that any contamination would reach that far, vinyl chloride levels measured by the EPA already show that the remaining surface water contamination near the site is limited to the immediate area near the spill and the remaining surrounding surface water contamination is minimal.
I haven't seen any recommendations for independent testing of soil, water, or air quality etc. How do I have that done without using potentially biased entities (EPA or company sponsored)? I'm sure others would like to know as well.
Typically, if you were a company or collective in the vicinity of the spill, you would hire someone like me, an environmental consultant. There are tons of consulting firms. If you would like to independently test media surrounding your home, I would focus on air monitoring rather than drinking water or soil. This is because vinyl chloride is typically a gas at room temperature and it is unlikely that if you are enough distance away from the release that you would detect VC in soil or groundwater on your property. Each state and EPA region has rules and regulations prescribing how soil, groundwater, and air media must be sampled so I would refer to your states specific rules in that regard. VC is in a group of chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and the proper analysis code for a laboratory to analyze a soil or water sample would be EPA Method 8260D. This would provide you with the concentrations of the full suite of the VOC chemicals in the media you submit. You would then need to compare those results to OSHA permissible exposure levels PELs for the various chemicals, or VC specifically if that is all you are looking for. These tests typically cost between $80-120 per sample, depending on the lab. For air monitoring, if you visit the EPA page on the release site, you will notice that they are producing air concentrations for total VOCs. As I mentioned before, VC is a VOC, but there are tons of VOCs, so it isn't giving you an exact measurement of VC in the air. It's like if you saw a flock of birds in the air and you wanted to know how many ducks were in the air, but all the observer could tell you was the total number of birds in the air, which may include ducks, pigeons, hawks, etc. Measuring VOCs is, however, a legitimate strategy to determining if the air is harmful. For instance, if it takes 10 ducks to adversely affect someone, but the observer only counts 5 birds total in the air, then their cant possibly be 10 ducks. That is their current strategy. If there were 100 birds, they may employ a more chemical specific air monitoring method to speciate out what types of birds are in the air.
All that being said, consultants are expensive and after reviewing the EPA numbers, it appears that they didn't skip out on any procedures so far. I would not recommend hiring a consultant by yourself, but if you have an HOA, you might be able to do something as a group.
HS Engineering teacher here. Loved the bird analogy!
Thanks! A lot of my job is relaying very technical data to people who may not have technical backgrounds, so i have a bag full of analogies on hand XD.
just going to chime in here since I am also at an environmental consulting firm, but specialize in air sampling / exposure to airborne contaminants. you can sample specifically for vinyl chloride (NIOSH 1007), rather than total volatile organic compounds (TVOCs), using charcoal tube media. Cost is about $75USD/sample. You can also use a passive badge, which is about as easy as air sampling can get, to also sample specifically for vinyl chloride. An open characterization VOC sample can easily get up to $500/sample. It would likely be preferable to compare the air sample results to ACGIH TLV's as a starting point, since OSHA PEL's tend to be slow to be revised (in this, it looks like the values are actually the same either way, at 1 ppm). But - ACGIH TLV, OSHA PEL, NIOSH REL, others etc are intended for 8-hour exposure periods with 16hr recovery periods, for 40 hr work weeks. Measurements of a contaminant within a home is a different scenario since there could potentially be someone within the home 24 hours, so the exposure limit criteria would likely come down quite a bit, potentially to 0.1 ppm.
If i'm not mistaken EPA 6820D intends to quantify VOCs in solid waste media. That may not be the best route in this instance.
The other consideration to deal with is that concentrations of vinyl chloride (and others) are likely to subside quickly over time due to its volatility. So you'd have to think ahead - if you get 'high' results the first time you sample, and then 'low' results if you sampled again a week later, was that a significant risk to your health? There'd be other contaminants to worry about - carbon monoxide, hydrochloric acid, phosgene (to manage perceptions from the public & media), respirable particulate (PM2.5), potentially metals like iron oxide / manganese / maybe aluminum from the rail cars themselves etc.
I think you meant 8260D for the solid waste media. You can get equipment to look for one chemical in particular yes, but i think a PID/FID to start, maybe a mini or multiRAE would be best to monitor for long period and if it gets above the established thresholds then you could notify EPA and they could take care of the speciation of the chemicals.
It is also important to note that the smell that folks report, while unsettling, may not be VC or any VOC's. Comingling COC's make something special. I miss my days responding to these things... The sweet xylenes...
I worked at a bulk liquid storage terminal once where they stored turpentine. I couldn't get the smell out of my nose or clothes for like a week but all air monitoring in the area was clean. Smell is a weird thing and its amazing how powerful our noses can be.
In your experience, does media reporting of an environmental disaster effect the quality of the disaster response?
What event would you consider the worst environmental disaster response? What event had the best?
I wanted to go ahead and just say that is a complicated question. I will attempt to answer it later as I am at work right now, but I don't have the time to answer that right now. I will go ahead and answer the media question though. In general the media is just as uninformed as anyone else not in this industry, without reviewing the actual site data, all they can rely on is what the company reps and government agencies release as statements. It does also seem that the media likes to hype up events out of proportion and that can create public concern that isn't really necessary.
For the worst environmental disaster check out Times Beach, Missouri. As far as response goes, I dont really have one that I can think of as the worst. The best responses are the ones you never hear about and they happen all the time :).
For anyone interested, below is a link to all the EPA documents available to the public.
That’s some questionable numbers on the surface waters. A lot of J-flags, especially on compounds like Phenol. 8270-SIM could get better results on the SVOCs. I saw a hit for 1,4-dioxane too. Fascinating. I’d love to know if they used a heated purge, since that’s a requirement for 624.1.
There were quite a few hits above the risk standards they referenced in surface water, but they seem to be localized to the immediate area near the spill. 1,4-Dioxane is typically found with chemicals like VC and TCE as an additive, so that isn't too surprising. Given that I am not so sure on the 8270, what SVOCs would you expect here? VC doesn't really degrade into anything I can think of on the SVOCs list, I could be wrong though. I don't really know what you mean by the 624.1 comment, that is for GC/MS laboratory analysis typically. I am not an expert in everything though, so if you would like to expand it may be helpful for everyone.
My career has been in CWA/SDWA/RCRA analyses. The reason I brought up EPAMethod 624.1 is that there is a requirement for the sample to be heated during analysis to 80C. The analysis gets tricky if the sample is preserved to pH<2 (it hydrolyzes and would give low bias on the results).
The PQLs for SVOCs are a different matter. They are higher than I would expect for storm water given the advances in technology available. I can think of several commercial labs that could achieve much lower limits, which would be more protective. And there are 3 different sites. Two have very low PQLs (the lowest verifiable concentration, usually the lowest standard in the calibration curves), but site 2 has much higher elevated PQLs. That leads me to believe they didn’t collect enough sample (a liter is required for SVOCs, whereas 40mL is required for VOCs). I assume the DRO/GRO/ORO are from the fuel spill of the train itself and not one of the cars.
I found the laboratory analytical results for the surface water samples at the site, apparently one of the bottles broke in transit from the site to the lab, so I think you are right about not having enough sample for the analysis.
Oh got it for 624.1. Oh I see, yes I agree, the PQLs are much higher they could also be due to turbid samples requiring significant dilution. I cant imagine why they wouldn't be able to collect enough sample for surface water unless its a dry creek bed.
Probably more of a convenience thing with cooler space & shipping demands and perhaps bottle availability.
I highly doubt they are concerned with a matter of convenience in this scenario and I also doubt they are shipping these samples rather than direct transport for faster results.
What's your favourite and least favourite chemical spill to clean up?
Favorite: Creosote, its sticky and tar like, very difficult to remediate, but with careful engineering and adequate data you can manage it. I had a site in London, UK where they had a former manufactured gas plant (MGP), which is similar to creosote (it was coal tar instead) and because it it denser than water it will slowly seep into the subsurface and stop on the nearest impermeable layer. Which in this case was a unit called the London Clay layer. We conducted soil borings throughout the site and determined the topographic surface of the clay layer beneath the site and identified a low point where the coal tar would naturally settle. We then installed a well at that low point and began recovering the coal tar through the well with specialized remediation equipment.
Least Favorite: tetrachloroethylene, its everywhere, sticks around in the environment forever, and it degrades into even worse chemicals, including vinyl chloride over time.
Would it be easier and more cost effective in certain circumstances to set fire to whatever is spilt rather than cleaning it up?
It is difficult to say what affect that would have on the surrounding air near the release. It is generally a best practice to attempt to contain and quantify releases rather than destroying them with uncontrolled fire, in order to quantify the amount of product captured to compare it to the amount released. In some facilities that deal with VOCs a flare is installed to perform controlled burns of such chemicals. I would therefore, not recommend burning the chemical due to the unknown affects it may have on air quality in the immediate vicinity and the damage to long term cleanup efforts.
Fellow Environmental Consultant here!
Just curious to know who you work for? Is it a small local or one of the big ones?
We are a small business located near Atlanta, Georgia.
Always nice to hear that the smaller consulting businesses are still thriving. Feels like the big players are constantly buying everyone up. We were with Wood, sold off, and was recently bought up by WSP here in Canada. They're kind of a huge player now with the buyout of another major consulting firm the year prior.
Either way! Good luck with everything! Wishing nothing but straightforward remedial work though I think we both know those projects don't exist. Lol
We typically work in tandem with large consultants, specializing in NAPL remediation. I worked with Amec now Wood on several projects. And yeh it does seem like consolidation happens every day with environmental consultants. We have been lucky to have a few good staple clients with the addition of some ad-hoc work for special clients and other consulting firms.
Are you an engineer or a geologist?
What are some measures that can be put into place to better protect communities from chemical releases of this sort in the future?
Due to the nature of the release (i.e. train derailment) I do not have the expertise to recommend any changes to the operation of rail lines. However, in general, better management and adequate caution while handling these types of dangerous chemicals should be at the forefront of any industry transporting these chemicals. Skimping on rail infrastructure maintenance and deregulation of the rail safety precaution almost certainly had an impact on this occurring.
How concerned should I be about this spill as a resident of Pittsburgh? All the media is focused on the impact of the immediate area, but should I be concerned about any negative impact 50miles away?
The immediate area air monitoring results indicate that concentrations in the air should not cause any adverse health effects. However, air behaves differently at different levels within the atmosphere. The plume of air going up into the sky may travel quite a distance and may even travel in a different direction than the air at ground level. That being said, air concentrations are a function of volume, speed, and degradation over time and space (distance in the x,y, and z direction). So as it spreads the concentrations become more dilute. I would expect you would have more exposure to being near a running car than to anything from the Palestine spill site
What is the process for cleaning up oil spilled in water and is it possible for it all to be extracted?
Oh man, I specialize in oil cleanups on land, I could give a 2-hour presentation on it and would still have so much to cover. However, for water, its much different. Oil spills to water and eventual cleanup of those spills is heavily dependent on the water body in which it was spilled. For oceans, you have to account for currents, waves, wind, etc. The short response is yes, kind of. You will be able to cleanup the visible oil or product but there is what is called the dissolved phase, which is much more difficult to cleanup since it is dissolved in the water itself. However, the dissolved phase is typically left unaddressed as those chemicals will quickly disperse in water and will quickly degrade as well. The general process therefore, relies on removing as much of the gross product as possible through absorbent and adsorbent material such as booms or oleophilic (attracts oily substances) floating devices.
What technical difficulties you actually face in cleaning process?and what's your solutions(by your opinion)on it
The most difficult aspect of cleanup is identifying what needs to cleaned up. The initial process is easy, anything with staining, or a foul odor can easily be removed. However, chemicals can still have adverse health effects when you can't even detect the chemical through olfactory senses. As such, identifying contaminated areas beyond gross contamination through laboratory analysis is the only way to ensure nothing that poses a risk remains. This takes time and a lot of energy in the field, collecting samples, storing them, submitting them to a lab, etc. Then you have to wait for results before you can act. Once you have delineated the unseen contamination, you may begin to fully remediate the site.
Everything currently recommended in the workplan for the site is what I would normally recommend in this scenario, however, I can't offer any specific advice without seeing the raw data collected for soil and groundwater data in the area, which is not currently publicly available.
Do you think that the burn was necessary or would other options (like pumping to new containers, etc) be available? Of course there is suspicion that NS took the easiest/cheapest route to avoid an explosion.
That is more of a mechanical engineering question, i don't have the expertise to comment on the best method to relieve a pressurized vessel which may explode. Additionally there isn't much public data on how that decision was reached.
What is done with the contaminated soil/water once it is removed from the area? Where does it go?
It can be disposed of in many different ways. Depending on the concentrations in the material and the media itself. For water, it can be solidified by pouring cement into it and then landfilling it or it may be able to be treated through a water treatment system (either public or private). For soil media, it may go to a normal landfill or it may need to be sent to a special hazardous waste landfill. Soil can also be incinerated at specialized hazardous waste incineration facilities (although that is quite expensive).
Do you have your PE license? If so, what was the licensing tests like for you?
I do not have a PE but i am currently studying to get my PE. Since I work for a small firm it hadn't really been necessary for me to get my PE up to this point. But as of a recent promotion the owner of the company has asked me to pursue my PE.
Assuming CO2 emissions remained static, how much carbon capture and storage would be necessary to reduce atmospheric CO2 to 1900 levels and how much energy would it cost to do it?
This is a complex problem with a lot of parts to consider, but I will attempt to address it with a back of the envelope evaluation. Global CO2 emissions were approximately 2.5 billion metric tons in 1900 and as of 2020 were around 33 billion metric tons according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/11/visualizing-changes-carbon-dioxide-emissions-since-1900/). CO2 emissions account for 76% of the total greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. In order to reach 1900 levels we would need to sequester around 30.5 billion metric tons per year.
It is estimated that about 55% of our current level of emissions are absorbed back or sequestered naturally through plant respiration and absorption into our oceans (which causes its own problems), but that leaves us with about 45% of 30.5 billion tons to sequester manually or about 13.725 billion tons. There was a recent technique that came out which is the cheapest method of sequestering carbon as of right now at $39 USD/ metric ton (https://www.cnbc.com/2023/01/24/new-technique-from-us-national-lab-to-remove-co2-at-record-low-cost.html). To capture that carbon, the top of the line models will use up to 30% of a power plants capacity to reduce 90% of the carbon output. Given that the majority of direct CO2 emissions are from power plants, lets simplify the problem a little bit by assuming that all carbon emissions come from power plants and to reduce carbon emissions we use this carbon capture technology.
EPA estimates that approximately 884.2 lbs of CO2 are emitted per megawatt-hour for a coal fired power plant (https://www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gases-equivalencies-calculator-calculations-and-references#:~:text=The%20national%20average%20carbon%20dioxide,EPA%202021%3B%20EIA%202020b). For the 13.725 billion tons we discussed before, that would be about 15,522,506 mega-watt hours of generation capacity. Assuming the 30% from before, it would take 4,656,751 mega-watt hours of power to reduce the 13.725 billion tons by 90% (which would bring us down to 1.23525 billion tons). With the cost estimate of $39 USD/metric ton from before, it would cost about $482 billion USD and that is just operating costs, not including upfront costs of manufacturing the amount of systems that would be needed and installing them.
I need to throw in a disclaimer that this is a gross simplification of the problem and please don't quote me on this because I had to make a lot of simplifying assumptions.
Half a trillion dollars, bargain!
Estimated 14 trillion dollar cost of sea level rise if we don’t get the climate under control.
Thanks for the detail and perspective.
As long as we mobilize to get people to work for free and we can set up that many systems in a timely manner, we can achieve it. But in reality it will take a few million to even come up with a plan and then several more billion to implement it before we can spend the half a trillion to actually do anything.
Everyone keeps getting worked up about how the burn off made hydrochloric acid in the atmosphere; is that really worth worrying about compared to the vinyl chloride itself and whatever other byproducts came off the burn? Like, HCL isn't carcinogenic. I have no chemical training to speak of, but I can buy a gallon of muriatic acid at the hardware store. My gut instinct is that I'd rather stick my hand in a beaker full of HCL than be in the same room with any visible quantity of vinyl chloride.
It is unlikely that HCL would have rained on anyone other than the residents in nearby Palestine. The most up to date measurements of atmospheric concentrations of the plume that escaped from the fire show insignificant concentrations of acid rain forming chemicals such as HCL.
I will say that if you are a resident of Palestine, don't go out playing in rain any time soon, but otherwise there isn't too much to worry about down wind.
What other byproducts would you expect to find in the burn plume? Obviously it isn’t an ideal way to incinerate chemicals. They can’t be getting complete combustion.
Phosgene gas a chemical weapon used in WWI is also a potential byproduct but I am unsure of the quantity that would be generated. It appears that those involved are aware of the potential and are monitoring those levels as well. I don't currently see any data that suggest that phosgene gas is of immediate concern but that may change with more data. If it is an issue it would have likely dissipated by now and may only be an issue in the upper atmosphere. I have never dealt with phosgene gas so I am not super confident on how it interacts or dissipates in the environment.
Do you ever call captain planet for help?
I wish, i would want the earth ring to I could actually see the contamination underground instead of having to dig for it XD.
Was burning the Vinyl Chloride a good or bad idea?
Burning hazardous material is almost always a bad idea if it is uncontrolled. In controlled environments such as a flare or incinerator the risks are minimal. If they implemented the proper controls (e.g. air monitoring, evacuation, proper PPE) it can be a useful tool to prevent a worse outcome (e.g. a chemical explosion). I don't know the exact circumstances under which they had to make that decision but it should have been their last resort. If it comes out that there was a safer way and they just did it to save money or avoid rail line closure times, then that's pretty shitty and it potentially exposed the workers and nearby residents to hazardous chemicals for profit reasons.
I am moving to a new construction home in a new neighborhood soon (in the US).
1) What are all the environmental factors that I should be concerned of in a newly built home?
2) What devices should I buy to measure the environmental / chemical quality?
Newly built homes may have elevated concentrations of VOCs from paint, varnishing, and other building supplies. If you believe there is a problem, you can rent what is called a Photo Ionization Detector (PID) from environmental rental equipment suppliers and measure the concentrations yourself or have a contractor perform a walkthrough with the device.
Despite reassurances from officials that the area’s air and water quality is safe, residents in the vicinity of the derailment have reported multiple health symptoms, including nausea and burning sensation in their eyes. So whether it is safe for ppl to go back?
Environmental remediation typically adheres to risk standards based on adverse health effects observed in toxicological studies. These can range from immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH), to burns, to difficulty breathing, and cancer risk factors. The symptoms people are encountering can be a mix of a few different things. Either they may be particularly sensitive (i.e. outside the standard deviations of the toxilogical study) or they may have had an acute exposure when the accident occurred. Current levels show that current exposure to air and groundwater is not a concern. I would say that surface water and soil near the site should be avoided.
What object in your regular office / workplace is your favorite thing and why?
How can the average person determine their health threat level of residing near chemical production/storage facilities?
State and federal governments require that facilities evaluate potential exposure and notify nearby residents of potential exposures. So if no one is knocking on your door, or if you haven't received a notification from the state or someone else, then there probably isn't and immediate threat. However, that is based on known releases and doesn't necessarily account for fugitive emissions. If you are curious about what issues certain industries have around your neighborhood, a good place to start looking is the EPA ECHO website (see link below). You can pull up nearby facilities to see how well they are doing with compliance and in certain states you can look up the actual permits online anonymously. Other states may require an official FOIA request.
Less about Ohio specifically, but how does the future of mycoremediation and insect remediation look, officially?
phytoremediation, mycoremediation, and insect remediation are most effective in shallow heavy metal and plastics soil contamination. Anything deeper than about 3-5 feet and they lose effectiveness quite quickly. I have seen some promising insect remediation techniques for dealing with plastic wastes, but I don't think they have figured out how to implement it on a large scale yet.
We want know if there are continuing chemical releases, what they are, the ways people may be exposed - air, water, and in their homes - and how we can eliminate their exposures?
As of right now, based on the data available, staying away from the spill site is the best option (how much outside of the range is really dependent on the level of concentrations detected near the spill site and wind direction). If you are near the spill site, make sure that the air around your house is monitored frequently (recommended continuous monitoring). If you are well outside of the spill site, there isn't much concern as long as you don't get near any down gradient surface water bodies.
So, I live less than 20 miles away from the center of East Palestine. When they did a 'controlled release' and the winds changed, hazmat guys were seen just down the street, and you could smell it in some parts of the city.
That said, how worried should I be when it comes to my tap/drinking water? What about my dog playing in the local ponds, or in Mill Creek?
Definitely would avoid any surface water bodies for a while until they have been cleared if they are connected to any streams near the spill site. As far as drinking water goes, if its from a municipal water supply, your local government will test for those chemicals typically anyways, they should post the results somewhere online. If you have well drinking water, take a sniff of the water and if you smell anything you may want to get it tested (you should have it tested regularly anyways). Just because you smell something doesn't mean it poses a risk to you in the short term. Our olfactory senses can detect concentrations of chemicals well below laboratory detection limits.
What are the steps one could take to become an environmental engineer themselves?
Look for universities or colleges that offer environmental engineering degrees and focus on your studies. Interning while in college is a great way to learn more about the industry as well.
I'm confused by your diploma. You were in an engineering college at U of G, but have a degree in environmental science?
I have a degree in environmental engineering which is a bachelors of science awarded by the college of engineering at the University of Georgia.
To what degree will states like Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Maine suffer because of this?
It is unclear what affects the plume will have further away without modeling data available, but as I mentioned in my other comment, long distance air exposure is somewhat unlikely given the nature of the chemicals released. They will tend to degrade and breakdown before they fall out of the atmosphere.
What would you say was the worst chemical spill known? What did it consist of?
Look up Times Beach, Missouri
Has any new pollutants be found but the media and officials has not reported?
I wouldn't know if it hasn't been reported, I can only go off of what is publicly available since I am not involved with the current cleanup efforts.
Considering your experiences, Is there any government's inappropriate response to the disaster? what are the effective steps to deal with the accident?
See any superfund site or military base. They are riddled with problems that industry left behind when they went bankrupt or were just totally ignored due to "national defense priority" arguments, like burn pits in Iraq.
Ohio EPA has released preliminary results for surface water samples collected throughout the Ohio River Basin. It appears that butyl acrylate was detected in surface water samples along this basin in several places. The detections are in the parts per billion (PPB) range which is quite low, however, there are no current drinking water or exposure standards for surface water for butyl acrylate. Without those risk standards, it is impossible to ascertain what current risks these results may pose to anyone fishing, swimming, or inadvertently drinking the water. Drinking water intakes from the river basin should remain OK as the water is treated before it is pumped into homes anyway. Anyone who lives near the areas listed in the following link should exercise caution and avoid direct contact with the river basin water and sediments.
Disclaimer: I do not work for any government agency. I do not represent Norfolk Southern or any of their contractors. I am an outside observer providing my knowledge to the public. My recommendations are based on an abundance of caution and coming in contact with the surface water may or may not pose an actual risk. But without concrete risk numbers to compare to from a toxicological report, it is impossible for anyone to say if the levels are safe or not for sure.
Ohio EPA and EPA have established a 560 ppb screening value for n-butyl acrylate based on the ATSDR Provisional Health Guidance Value (HGV). All of the hits (positive detections) within the Ohio River are well below this number, around 12.5 ppb at it's peak approximately 0.2 miles from the release site. The majority are between 1-2 ppb farther away from the site, just above laboratory detection limits.
What do you think should be done about the trees and such that may have absorbed these chemicals?
Absorption of chemicals into plant material or uptake generally is more of a concern with heavy metals contamination. VC and other VOCs do not readily absorb into plant matter, either through respiration or through the root structure. In fact, the use of phytoremediation is quite useful for shallow soil metal contamination as certain trees will clean the soil quite effectively. In those cases, the plant material itself is treated as potentially hazardous and is tested as such. Depending on the concentration in the plant material it may be deposited into a hazardous waste landfill or normal landfill but in most cases it is never burned.
Have you seen any use/testing of fungi to clean up environmental toxins or radiation?
No, i have not.
Why the fuck was it BURNED?! It doesn’t make any logical sense
It sounded like it was there last option, but we wont know until a full report comes out. Burning chemicals is allowed under certain circumstances to prevent a much worse outcome (e.g. an uncontrolled explosion or chain reaction of the chemical).
But not knowing the long term consequences of mixing and then burning those chemicals? It seemed like that was the quickest option just to get the trains moving again. There are reports of EPA officials still not going in to test things because they don’t want to risk exposure to the EPA employees, but they tell the East Palestine residents to shelter at home?! No remediation recommendations for PPE or their air filters? It just doesn’t make any logical sense.
They are performing real time and continuous air monitoring in the nearby area, which is standard protocol and should alert them to any potential VOCs in the air. If VOCs were at a level where PPE would be recommended I would urge my client (if they were my client) to evacuate the area instead, because PPE isn't a shield, its a band-aid which can prevent short term exposure but not a good long term solution. Air concentrations dissipate quickly radiating outwards, but may be concentrated in a particular wind direction. As long as they maintain this procedure, the town shouldn't need to worry about air exposure, unless wind conditions change. My understanding of the EPA's hesitation was the evaluation of the immediate area of the spill site, which is understandable but the workplan that the Norfolk consultants proposed included the removal of source material in the area. This requires specialized HAZMAT teams if the air in the immediate area of the site still poses an inhalation risk.
Air isn’t the only concern either, their streams look like nuclear waste from the fallout of the burn. I don’t see how this was best case scenario at all. What is hazmat for, if not for the cleanup of hazardous materials. Their tap water is literally green. How are they supposed to shower? What is that going to do to the plumbing and sewer systems?
Regarding the drinking/tap water, if you are going to make claims like this, then please provide evidence. Without evidence, people can make all types of claims. Air is the primary concern for nearby residents as it is the only complete exposure pathway at the moment unless they are rolling around in the mud near the spill site. HAZMAT crews who specialize in Level A/B PPE (respirators) can cleanup the site in timed intervals using a zoned cleanup plan.
The news report states that it was water collected from the ground on their property. It does not mention any testing whatsoever. There are many reasons why that water might be green, including that it may be related to the release, but without testing, there is no way to know. This is not water from the tap. All tap water monitoring in the area has come up clean so far. https://www.newsnationnow.com/us-news/midwest/train-derailment-east-palestine-resident-refuses-sign-form/
I wanted to thank everyone for there questions. This is my first AMA but I will certainly do more in the future if I see a need or if their is interest. I will still monitor this post, however, given my work schedule I can't dedicate a lot of time to online questions when my clients also have questions.
Ever cleaned chemo drugs? I know this is going to get heated as fuck but theres these drugs that mess with your hormones and I heard that they can cause extreme bone thinning (lupron for prostate cancer or endimetriosis), so If a kid with cancer takes it he might develop scoliosis or osteoperosis. My question is how dangerous are drugs like those to be exposed to on a 1/100 scale?
I do not have any experience dealing with medical waste, but they have their own regulations regarding the disposal practices required.
It would have to be my little rubber ducky i inherited when I took my office space (see below)
Are you going to bullshit us about Ohio?
Bullshitting in my field is what gets people killed or causes them to have increased risks of cancer, so no.
What are the long term consequences of having chemicals like vinyl chloride escape out into the environment like in Ohio?
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