Breached Dam, Incineration of Soil Flood East Palestine With Fresh Fears of Toxins

Conor here: In fairness, the Ohio EPA says everything is completely under control. From the Highland County Press:

According to the Ohio EPA, the contractor created a depression in the dam to relieve the overflow and lower the water level, and vacuum trucks were then used to pull up the released water.

This mitigation work allowed the contractor to control the runoff in the derailment area, and the Ohio EPA does not believe that any visible contaminated waste was released into the streams.

Additionally, the Ohio EPA says:

  • Approximately 230,000 gallons have been shipped to Vickery Environmental in Vickery, Ohio, to be disposed of through deep well injection.
  • Approximately 2.1 million gallons have been shipped to Texas Molecular in Deer Park, Texas, to be disposed of through deep well injection.
  • Approximately 320,000 gallons have been hauled to Detroit Industrial Well in Romulus, Michigan to be disposed of through deep well injection.
  • Approximately 1,970 tons of solid waste have also left the derailment site.
  • Approximately 290 tons have been hauled to Ross Incineration Services in Grafton, Ohio, to be incinerated.
  • Approximately 800 tons have been hauled to Heritage Thermal Services in East Liverpool, Ohio, to be incinerated.
  • Approximately 440 tons have been shipped to U.S. Ecology Wayne Disposal in Belleville, Michigan, to be placed in a landfill.
  • Approximately 440 tons have been hauled to Heritage Environmental Services in North Roachdale, Indiana to be placed in a landfill.

For some reason residents in East Palestine and near the disposal sites are not reassured.

By Jon Queally, managing editor at Common Dreams:

The collapse Friday night of a makeshift dam designed to hold back wastewater and new concerns by local groups and residents about the nearby incineration of contaminated soil from last month’s train derailment are the latest anxiety-producing woes to behest the community of East Palestine, Ohio.

Watchdogs on the ground reported that the dam broke after heavy rains in the area on Friday.

According to local Channel 19 News:

Residents tell 19 News heavy rain has caused Leslie Run Creek to rise, and spill over the makeshift dam, near the derailment sight. 19 News was able to obtain several photos of water from that manmade dam covering the Main Street area of town.

Residents fear the contaminated water may seep into homes or businesses—causing another level of fear for those who live in the area.

Local resident Eric Cozza told the news outlet he was scared of what the released waters could do to the community. “I fear that now the chemical is in the ground, it’s going to leech towards the water ducts, our aquifer for drinking water,” Cozza said. “I’m concerned that the park is now contaminated. Kids won’t be able to play there or walk through there on their way to school.”

Status Coup News, which has been reporting from East Palestine and speaking with residents since the disaster occurred, reported Friday night that flooding from the breached dam was going “into The Original Roadhouse restaurant parking lot where a lot of locals eat and drink.”

The outlet also reported that the pictures of the broken dam posted to social media were taken by local resident Neko Figley, who was told by contractors to leave the area because it was “super dangerous to be here right now.”

River Valley Organizing, a multi-racial, working-class group active in the Ohio River Valley region, said in a statement Friday that residents of East Palestine are still being ignored a month after 38 rail cars of a Norfolk Southern train went off the tracks on February 3.

“It’s been one month since our lives were turned upside down,” the group said, “but we still aren’t getting what we need from the government or Norfolk Southern. We heard the people of this community loud and clear: they want safe homes, and independent environmental and health testing—now.”

On Saturday, The Guardian reported on fresh fears over the incineration of contaminated soil that was taken from the crash site, not least because one of the nearby facilities where the material is being taken has a history of EPA violations. According to the Guardian:

The new plan is “horrifying,” said Kyla Bennett, a former [EPA] official now with the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility non-profit. She is one among a number of public health advocates and local residents who have slammed Norfolk Southern and state and federal officials over the decision. […]

Incinerating the soil is especially risky because some of the contaminants that residents and independent chemical experts fear is in the waste, like dioxins and PFAS, haven’t been tested for by the EPA, and they do not incinerate easily, or cannot be incinerated.

“Why on earth would you take this already dramatically overburdened community and ship this stuff a few miles away only to have it deposited right back where it came from?” Bennett asked.

She further told the Guardian that the “most important thing in my mind is the human health and health of the environment” and that burning this toxic material under such conditions flies “in the face of basic human decency and science.”

Penn Future, a watchdog for air and water quality in neighboring Pennsylvania, said the incineration plans are very worrying.

“The plan to incinerate dioxin and PFAS contaminated soil from Norfolk Southern’s toxic spill deeply troubles us and will continue to build distrust and anxiety,” the group said. “It’s not clear the plan will work and puts communities down wind at risk of contamination.”

According to an update from the office of Ohio’s Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, the Ohio EPA has reported that approximately 1,700 tons of solid waste have been removed from the disaster site in East Palestine as of Friday.

Of that waste, reportsThe Chronicle-Telegram, 660 tons has gone to Heritage Thermal Services—the company with a litany of past violations—in East Liverpool, Ohio, which is in Columbiana County not far from East Palestine. Another 190 tons was hauled to the Giles incinerator for in-state burning and 880 tons of the solid waste was shipped out of state to landfills in Michigan and Indiana.

Meanwhile, 3.2 million gallons of liquid wastewater have been collected in the area with the large majority going out of state, to facilities in Michigan and Texas, for deep-well injection.

Amanda Kiger, director of River Valley Organizing, said one of her concerns was the incineration of toxin-laden materials so close to the residents still reeling in East Palestine.

EPA and other government officials, she told the Guardian, “are just dumping more shit on Columbiana county,” Kiger said.”They say, ‘We already poisoned them so it doesn’t matter if we poison them more.'”

As for Cozza, who spoke with 19 News about the dam breach and whose family has already been diagnosed with skin irritations, he said the odor of chemicals is now back in the area.

“I have fear,” he said. “I’ve had fear and now this just put the anxiety over the top.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. John R Moffett

    Now East Palestine is another superfund cleanup site, one among many bequeathed to the public by our corporate criminals. Somehow I don’t expect that the Biden administration is going to do anything about the crumbling, understaffed rail system after making sure the workers were shafted in the strike negotiations. Like all superfund cleanup sites, the actual “cleanup” will never happen. As this discussion makes clear, a main tactic is to just spread the toxic waste around and hope no one notices that they are getting sick. As much as I hate Trump, Biden is turning out to be even more pernicious. It makes the phrase ‘vote Blue no matter who” sound like an ancient Chinese curse.

    1. timbers

      Maybe Governor DeWine will get involved and have sone of the toxic water and waste dumped in Washington, the White House, and Biden’s home. He might teamup with DeSantis in Florida to find the labor to do the job. Perhaps Zelensky could make a cameo appearance pretending to chip in with shovel in hand…after all he needs to patch up his image after some of the American peasantry got wind he called for their children to fight Russia. Our leaders are so removed from us peasants and so engrossed with their Empire projects one wonders if they even know we are here.

    2. mrsyk

      Ask yourself this. Under what cleanup scenario would you be comfortable enough to purchase a house and start a family in East Palestine. None right? So critiquing the response is basically comparing styles.
      ‘vote Blue no matter who” is an advertising slogan. Do you really think that a Trump run EPA would have made any difference? Maybe optically. Maybe by supplying more small comforts. The spill is the spill. It doesn’t clean up. It is prevented by rules and regulations or it isn’t. Yes, Trump showed more concern than Biden, so what. If you live in East Palestine your memories are now and forever cast in two categories, pre- and post-spill. The fact that the spill happened at all is the idea that we all have to focus on.

      1. John R Moffett

        My point was that the Biden administration is more dangerous than Trump’s, which is hard to believe. Trump is already talking about ending the war in Ukraine immediately, even though that is certainly empty, cynical electioneering rhetoric. But Biden wouldn’t even consider pretending to end the war, or clean up East Palestine. Biden is as tone deaf as any politician I have ever witnessed. Now that the Democrats are the endless war party, they have become at least as dangerous as the Republicans, and based on the escalation in Ukraine, seem even more deranged than the highly deranged Republicans. The Blinken/Nuland team is the worst foreign policy team of my lifetime, and if they keep it up, they will be the last of my lifetime.

        1. mrsyk

          I agree entirely. My point is that this wouldn’t matter to me if I lived in East Palestine. Prevention of disaster is leadership. Disaster response has sadly become nothing more than political theater. Name one modern day national level politician that would have prevented this.

          1. John R Moffett

            The US is a political cesspool. While Bernie Sanders might (I stress the word might) have handled things differently if he were president, he would never be allowed to become president, so the point is moot. There is not one single Red Team or Blue Team player that would have handled it differently, but that is not the real point. The point, as you said, is that the entire political system has been captured by corporations and no one is going to do anything to fix the system that they have been forbidden from touching. The damage in E. Palestine has been done, and nothing is going to change that now. Cleanup efforts could even make things worse as they will be done quickly and improperly. The broken rail system will continue to be an ongoing disaster for years to come and the Red and Blue teams will continue their partisan sniping while Rome burns (or WWIII engulfs us).

        2. Telee

          Col. Lawrence Wilkerson characterized Biden’s pronouncements on Ukraine as the most bellicose language since Attila the Hun.

      2. BeliTsari

        I’d actually looked at a BEAUTIFUL place, south of here (below an abandoned interurban ROW, along Little Beaver Creek, we’d tried to turn into a rail trail; as the WTI story, was silenced by the Clintons). I’d tried to post links to a slew of incidents between Youngstown & XTO’s Powatan blow-out, Shell’s cracker & uninspected ethane gathering system all spewing, as two brand new pipelines up & exploded in 2018. “Subsidence,” is PHMSA’s latest euphemism. But, somehow these links just disappeared? It’s NOT Biden vs Trump vs Bernie vs Hills; it’s THEM vs us & nobody caring

        1. mrsyk

          “It’s NOT Biden vs Trump vs Bernie vs Hills; it’s THEM vs us & nobody caring”
          This, thank you.

        2. eaglemount

          ‘It’s not right vs. left nor Democrat Vs Republican! It’s individual vs institution’
          Julian Assange

      3. Benny

        If the railroad doesn’t purchase homes at a nice profit to the residents who want to leave, doesn’t completely clean the area to the point where an EPA official or Norfork Southern executive will allow their children to frolic in the local waterway, then perhapes the townspeople should consider blocking the tracks?

    3. Mo

      Marianne Williamson will get it all sorted out. Just needs everyone to send her $27.

      (Just in case it’s not clear … I’m joking)

  2. ambrit

    Time for some “enterprising” protesters to bring a dump truck of the worst of the contaminated soil in to Washington, D of C and drop it off on the steps of the Capitol Building? Such is a time honoured tactic in places like Europe.
    Remember the farmer’s protests in the Netherlands? I thought not.
    At this point, sociopathy is so dangerous to the “common people” that those with it should be “composted.”

    1. Bart Hansen

      Well, right now the low level winds are blowing toward the area between Washington, D.C. and NYC. No word on when the incinerating will begin.

    2. cgregory

      How about a dump truck visit to each of the railroad’s board of directors? I think that would be far more immediately productive.

      1. JBird4049

        Ahh, and I say this without hyperbole, that would be terrorism towards our Beloved Elites, the Good People, which is very unlike the accidental-but-not-really poisoning of a tenth of our population. Our Pravda and Izvestia would say so and be echoed by all the stenographers reporters of the land.

        They would find the posteriors of the perpetrators and send them to the worse federal hellhole that there is. Maybe they would be sent to one of Alabama, Mississippi, or Florida’s state prisons, which are the worst of the country’s. As with Reality Winner or Julian Assange, the question of a trial before imprisonment and torture being ignored.

  3. John

    I want to rant. I shall restrain myself. A moment’s reflection outlines with glaring clarity that “precision railroading” is a means to cut cost to the bone when coupled with reducing the labor force, holding down wages, giving as little attention to safety as one can get away with in the pursuit of the last nickel to enhance the compensation of upper management and pay out more and more and more to shareholders. This is the cause of this disaster and disasters which have preceded and will follow. It is capitalism as parasitism.

      1. Screwball

        I was in Columbus, Ohio yesterday picking up a couple from the airport. They had flew to Arizona a few weeks ago and this was their return flights. Going out, and coming back, not one flight was on time. Not one flight didn’t have something wrong in one way or another. On the return, one flight cancelled, then the connection was late, so they arrived 4 hours later than they should have – only to find out – they lost half their bags.

        Southwest Airlines

        1. TimH

          The picture that I remember from every time I’ve flown SW is the boarding system with stressed looking business types with the max carryon allowance worrying about whether there will be enough overhead space for their stuff.

  4. Lex

    For scale, 1,700 tons of contaminated soil is less than forty, 30 cubic yard dumpsters, maybe much less if the soil was wet. The liquid waste removed is nearly 2,000 standard vac trucks used for environmental cleanup.

    In other words, one month in and this is still a relatively small environmental spill response. The state and federal EPA performance in terms of analytical data collection (at least published) is ridiculously bad. The criticisms about incineration are valid. And though the waste site violations are real and concerning, there’s not much else that can be done with the waste that’s not incinerated. Those issues are symptomatic of much larger issues at the federal government and EPA administrative levels.

    The proportion of water to soil seems off to me, given that we know the chemical soup released sinks. But I also admit to having incomplete information and generally liquid waste is the last resort for disposal so presumably the analytical data says that water is hazardous and cannot be managed through onsite filtration.

    1. redleg

      Agree. What bothers me most, speaking as someone who does remediation work for a living, is how people are getting so upset about incineration. That is how halogenated organics are destroyed!! It’s not a perfect process, but it is the best way to destroy the substances in bulk that’s currently available. The spill happened, the chemicals exist, this is how they are cleaned up and disposed of right now. Storing the stuff in case a better option shows up someday doesn’t solve the problem and would probably make matters worse.

      1. JBird4049

        I think that the people in the area have been lied too some much that they don’t believe in anything said, nor trust anyone not to put a shiv in their back. Why should they?

      2. Rip Van Winkle

        If dioxins are present then the waste has to go to a hazardous waste incinerator capable of 2200 – 2400 degrees F and at least “6 nines” (99.9999%) destruction capability. That’s been the standard for PCBs for 30 years and likely PFAS when that’s finalized under CERCLA/RCRA, so such facilities exist.

        Hazardous Waste incineration costs 10x to 20x more than deepwell injection disposal and landfill. (Ding! Ding! Ding!) The untreated waste has no business in any landfill, except as ash after its incinerated. Even there should be stabilized in concrete at a RCRA hazardous waste landfill.

        No one is mentioning that railroads often used pentachlorophenol and then creosote to treat the ties, with perhaps pesticides, too. That leaches into the trackbed and surrounding area. Likewise with herbicides common over the years like 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid or other now-banned wonder chemicals over the decades; the older herbicides/ pesticides were more persistent in the environment. If those were in the burn pit / fireball / fume plume at East Palestine, then there is a high probability of dioxins all over the place. If USEPA says ‘that’s background’, that’s b.s. for this reason.

        The lengthy Superfund process too common with former industrial plants and dump sites is not relevant here. Those often have multiple parties, bankrupt parties, long gradual manifestation periods, etc. This is a new incident caused by sole party with deep pockets. If a railcar company or service shop or bearing manufacturers or or chemical company shipper has a hand in it then the RR can go after them on their own time and dime. On the other hand, the EPA does have power under CERCLA to take control of the site and manage the remediation and disposal and hand the RR the bill.

        The people and businesses in the town require lawsuits for bodily injury (including medical monitoring, emotional distress, mental anguish) and property damage (physical damage, loss of use, loss of value, loss of enjoyment). Includes house, pets and water supply, including users downstream. THE EPA WILL DO NOTHING FOR THEM ON THAT FRONT.

        The people, town, state, Friends Of The Fish, etc. can make claims for natural resource damage (NRD) under the Maguson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

        Fines, penalties, multiple, exemplary and punitive damages can also come into play by government entities and private parties.

        Testing at the site is also important because DOT 49 CFR shipping names on bills of lading or manifests do not require all ingredients to be listed.

        1. Telee

          The Biden DOJ filed a brief with the Supreme Court in regard to a case coming to the court pertaining to the question of liability for the railroads. The Biden administration is arguing that the railroads should have immunity for liability.

      3. Gaianne

        Incomplete burning of chlorinated organics his how dioxin is made.

        So what you are saying is not quite right.

        That open-pit burn-off they did was anything but complete.


  5. Alice X

    To borrow a recent NC title

    Salve Lucrum: The Existential Threat of Greed in US Capitalism

    But come to think of it, that’s something of a tautology.

  6. TimH

    Let’s say that someone wants to move to somewhere in the US where an older 2000 sq ft home with at least 1/5th acre lot is reasonable priced and has internet. Not fussy about winters or humidity or demographics or politics, but can’t be completely out in the sticks because internet and cell service. Requirements:
    1. Low risk of flooding, fires, serious tornados and other weather nasties
    2. Gonna have water in 40 years
    3. Medical services that will take Medicare (I doubt that any GP in Asheville is taking new Medicare patients) implying reasonable size population not biassed towards retirees
    4. Industry = non-service-jobs that won’t evaporate in 40 years leaving a ghost economy
    5. No industry that can easily pollute waterways (pig farms), acquifers (fracking), air (incinerators, chemical plants), pipelines (rupturing)

    All I can think of is parts of west WA, though Seattle-Tacoma is a masive estuarial flood plain by inspection

      1. redleg

        East WA. All of WA is west of me, LOL.
        So you are correct. Then you’re dealing with the climate, earthquakes, and landslides related to both.

    1. ambrit

      Well, for the Internet part of your requirements, perhaps a 30″ satellite dish and dedicated desktop PC would work.
      For your basic conditions, perhaps a seasteading would fit the bill.
      Personally, I’d settle for an island off of some remote coast. Oh, and do account for sea level rise. Thus, at least a few acres at two hundred foot of elevation available.
      Naturally, if the “Three Days of Darkness” do hit this month, all bets are off.

  7. Susan the other

    All that flood water will soon find its way to New Orleans. And contaminate the entire watershed with dioxins.

    1. ambrit

      The segment of the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and Lower Plaquemine Parish, (below New Orleans,) isn’t called “Cancer Alley” for nothing.
      Cancer Alley:
      We here in the North American Deep South are quite capable of killing ourselves off, thank you.
      Of interest in the East Palestine debacle is all the city water systems below East Palestine on the Ohio River that get their water from said river. New Orleans gets it’s municipal water supply from the Mississippi River, but it has the world’s standard in water purification systems in the Carrolton Water Purification Plant.

  8. Rabbit

    It’s what you get when you live in a country of wussies where no one will stand up for anything.
    If you pull the lever for D or R you’re voting for a fifth column of traitors who have sold us out for 40 years.
    Our freedoms, our jobs, our healthcare, our housing all up for grabs by the traitors who run this sh1t show called Amerika. Lies, spies and thieves. Government by war criminal. Do you think they care about citizens while killing anything that moves in the resource rich countries they steal? Apartheid and ethnic cleansing is normal.
    Will we wait until they grind up our bodies to sell for fertilizer?
    Until these traitors fear us, nothing will change.

    1. cgregory

      Well, the place to start is by leveling the post-tax income– Right now, the 1% spend about four-hundredths of a percent of their aggregate income to fund almost 100% of the campaigns of the winning candidates. If you’re making the median income in the US, that would be about $38.22.

      Level the playing field by re-imposing the 91% marginal tax rate on ewvything over $160,000 (which is, by the way about 12% of the population) AND by instituting equitable campaign financing by mandating that vendors and donors of goods and services provide the same to ALL qualified candidates. With this, the winning strategy becomes one of depending not on contributions but on volunteers. Of course, a lot of currently very influential people are going to see their ox gored if this were to obtain.

      1. Rabbit

        Nobody who would support those proposals has a chance of getting elected. They’d get shadow banned in the media like Kucinich. Oligarchs who own this country wouldn’t give a cent.
        Look at Bernie and The Squad. All for the good stuff when they don’t have the votes but lots of money supporting wars of aggression. Bought and sold. “Tax the Rich” dress at the Met and crickets on healthcare.

        Citizens don’t have a say. Their democracy has been stolen by the worst scum dragged up from the sewers in Hell.

        Something seriously wrong when people won’t stand up for themselves and their kids.

Comments are closed.