Chief Samuel Pena stated that the problem was under control and that an excessive amount of chlorine had been added to the pool or pools.
The governor of Ohio, Mike DeWine, recently bemoaned that “no other community should have to go through this” due to the harm done to East Palestine’s citizens as a result of the hazardous train crash there.
But these mishaps occur with startling regularity. Accidental releases of chemicals, whether caused by train derailments, truck collisions, pipeline ruptures, or industrial catastrophes, are on the rise in the US, according to a study of data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and non-profit organisations that monitor chemical incidents.
By one estimate these incidents are occurring, on average, every two days.
“These kinds of hidden disasters happen far too frequently,” Mathy Stanislaus, a former assistant administrator of the EPA’s office of land and emergency management under the Obama administration, told the news reporters. Stanislaus oversaw initiatives aimed at preventing oil spills, cleaning up contaminated hazardous waste sites, and securing chemical plants.
More than 30 instances, or almost one every day and a half, were reported by the Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters in just the first seven weeks of 2023. The coalition reported 188 last year, an increase from 177 in 2021. Since the group began tracking incidences in April 2020, it has recorded more than 470 instances.
Although the severity of the instances recorded by the coalition varies greatly, each one involves the unintentional discharge of chemicals deemed to pose potential threats to human and environmental health.
For instance, a caustic substance spill at a recycling business in California in September resulted in the evacuation of 300 individuals and the hospitalisation of nine persons. Officials issued a shelter-in-place order to residents in October following an explosion and fire at a Louisiana petrochemical plant.
A massive pipeline exploded in rural northern Kansas in December, resulting in 588,000 gallons of diluted bitumen crude oil covering the area’s land and waters. At a cost estimated at $488 million, hundreds of workers are still working to clean up the pipeline catastrophe.
The precise number of hazardous chemical incidents is hard to determine because the US has multiple agencies involved in response, but the EPA told the news reporters that over the past 10 years, the agency has “performed an average of 235 emergency response actions per year, including responses to discharges of hazardous chemicals or oil”. The agency said it employs roughly 250 people devoted to the EPA’s emergency response and removal program.
The disaster in East Palestine, where dozens of carriages on a Norfolk Southern train derailed on 3 February and contaminated the community of 4,700 people with poisonous vinyl chloride, is one of ten rail-related chemical pollution episodes the group has tracked over the past two and a half years.
However, the great majority of events take place at the tens of thousands of sites around the nation that handle and store hazardous chemicals.
Stanislaus declared, “What happened in East Palestine is a common occurrence for populations living beside chemical facilities. They have constant anxiety of an accident.
According to him, 200 million individuals worldwide, many of whom are members of underprivileged groups or people of colour, are regularly at risk.
There are close to 12,000 facilities across the nation that have on site “extremely hazardous chemicals in amounts that could harm people, the environment, or property if accidentally released”, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report issued last year. These facilities include petroleum refineries, chemical manufacturers, cold storage facilities, fertilizer plants and water and wastewater treatment plants, among others.
EPA data shows more than 1,650 accidents at these facilities in a 10-year span between 2004 and 2013, roughly 160 a year. More than 775 were reported from 2014 through 2020. Additionally, after analyzing accidents in a recent five-year period, the EPA said it found accident-response evacuations impacted more than 56,000 people and 47,000 people were ordered to “shelter-in-place.”