Is Our Water Contaminated? Long-term Effects of Chemical Explosions

Is Our Water Contaminated? Long-term Effects of Chemical Explosions

  • The Fee Is Free Unless You Win®.
  • America's Largest Injury Law Firm™
  • Protecting Families Since 1988
  • 20 Billion+ Won
  • 1,000+ Lawyers Nationwide

Free Case Evaluation

Tell us about your situation so we can get started fighting for you. We tailor each case to meet our clients' needs.
Results may vary depending on your particular facts and legal circumstances. ©2024 Morgan and Morgan, P.A. All rights reserved.
Our results speak for themselves

The attorneys featured above are licensed in Florida. For a full list of attorneys in your state please visit our attorney page.

Is Our Water Contaminated? Long-term Effects of Chemical Explosions

The blazing derailment of a Norfolk Southern freight train carrying a cargo of toxic chemicals has left the small town of East Palestine, Ohio, reeling in its aftermath. Still, the implications of the controlled release of a specific chemical have led to mounting and far-reaching concerns about water contamination.
The derailment was most likely caused by a mechanical failure involving a rail car axle. However, the incident is still under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. The responsibility for the cleanup and fallout will also likely rest squarely on the shoulders of the company that allowed safety inspection protocols to deteriorate, all while posting record profits to its shareholders over the last four years.

Suppose you're concerned about water contamination and other environmental damage that could affect you and your loved one's health. In that case, we urge you to contact Morgan and Morgan to learn about your legal rights. We understand that innocent people across the U.S. are fed up with corporate greed that puts profit over the health and safety of American citizens. You can join the fight and win compensation to cover testing for water contamination, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other losses incurred because of the Norfolk Southern train derailment disaster.

Scroll down for more

How it works

It's easy to get started.
The Fee Is Free™. Only pay if we win.

Results may vary depending on your particular facts and legal circumstances.

  • Step 1

    your claim

    With a free case evaluation, submitting your case is easy with Morgan & Morgan.

  • Step 2

    We take

    Our dedicated team gets to work investigating your claim.

  • Step 3

    We fight
    for you

    If we take on the case, our team fights to get you the results you deserve.

Client success
stories that inspire and drive change

Explore over 55,000 5-star reviews and 800 client testimonials to discover why people trust Morgan & Morgan.

Results may vary depending on your particular facts and legal circumstances. Based on Select nationwide reviews

  • Video thumbnail for 5l3q2e67j8
    Wistia video play button
  • Video thumbnail for yfe952tcop
    Wistia video play button
  • Video thumbnail for z1bqwg9hkl
    Wistia video play button
  • Video thumbnail for s5nb3hnvkv
    Wistia video play button
  • Video thumbnail for t4elibxene
    Wistia video play button
  • Video thumbnail for 5nr9efxqj3
    Wistia video play button
  • Video thumbnail for e8s1x6u5jp
    Wistia video play button


Get answers to commonly asked questions about our legal services and learn how we may assist you with your case.

  • What Toxic Chemicals Were on the Train?

    One of the most concerning toxic chemicals on the train was vinyl chloride. This gas is used in plastics manufacturing and pesticides. Once the freight tankers derailed, they caught fire and continued to burn for several days. A decision was made to perform a controlled release of the chemical to avert the danger of an explosion. In doing so, more than one million pounds of highly toxic phosgene gas was released into the environment as vinyl chloride breaks down into other elements when heated.  

    According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), four additional chemicals polluted the soil, air, and water: butyl acrylate, ethylhexyl acrylate, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, and isobutylene. While residents were evacuated during the controlled release, they have since been allowed to return. Still, some have reported symptoms of phosgene gas exposure, like headaches, nausea, and burn or frost-bite-like lesions on their skin. Residents further reported the death of outdoor livestock and pets.

  • What Are Officials Reporting About Water Contamination?

    Thus far, about 3,500 fish were said to have died because of chemical exposure in the creeks and streams meandering around East Palestine. The director of the Ohio Department of Natural resources stated they had not seen evidence of increasing aquatic deaths since the first few days after the accident. Furthermore, no there are no incidents of non-aquatic life forms being harmed.

    Ohio's Environmental Protection Agency continued to find low levels of butyl acrylate and ethylhexyl acrylate in nearby waterways. However, they depend on agents of Norfolk Southern to aerate and contain the contamination. There has been no detection of water contamination by vinyl chloride in areas near the derailment site. While there is no question that the folks of East Palestine and surrounding communities have cause to worry, the problem is even bigger than that.

    A "plume" of hazardous chemicals is being tracked as it slowly travels along the Ohio River. Officials suggest that treatment and closure of water intakes will bar contaminants from entering local systems. While municipal water utilities have methods to remove and isolate contamination if levels rise to unacceptable amounts, this doesn't address the issue of contamination of groundwater.

    That means residents that rely on private wells have ample cause to be concerned. It's likely that the actual toll of the Norfolk Southern derailment won't be realized for some time to come. It's possible that contaminated water in East Palestine could travel to the Great Miami River in southwestern Ohio, which has an immense aquifer underneath known as the Great Miami Buried Aquifer. This aquifer provides drinking water to the residents of Dayton and Cincinnati.

    The Ohio River is 981 miles long and traverses through six states: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. More than 5 million people depend on it for drinking water, and about 10% of Americans live in the Ohio River Basin.

  • Why Are Ohio Authorities Shutting Off Water Intake From the Ohio River if It's "Safe”?

    Ohio's governor declared that the water in East Palestine is safe to drink after numerous tests to detect contamination showed no concerns. Still, authorities in Cincinnati, located hundreds of miles from the disaster, decided to shut off intakes from the river. Water authorities that serve Campbell, Kenton, and parts of Boone, Grant, and Pendleton counties followed suit "out of an abundance of caution."

    Tests in Cincinnati have detected low levels of butyl acrylate, which is a by-product of the controlled burn of vinyl chloride. It's suspected the contamination resulted from a small creek about 300 miles north, which seeped into the Ohio River. Rainfall in the region following the disaster is suspected of further exacerbating contamination issues.

    The decisions made by separate officials to close off their water intake from the Ohio River after having declared the water safe to drink have put the governor and Norfolk Southern in an awkward position. While chemical contamination at any level is concerning, what exactly are permissible levels? Does the scientific community have the data needed to make those calls when they don't know the totality of the chemical by-products produced from the burn?

    The Ohio River is one of the largest tributaries of the Mississippi River, potentially affecting the metro areas of Memphis, Tennessee, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans, Louisiana, which have a combined population of more than 3.5 million people.

  • What Is the Danger to the Public?

    No one really understands the extent of the danger to the public yet. Even the exact chemicals released during the controlled burn haven't been confirmed, except they include the highly toxic cancer-inducing agent, vinyl chloride. A similar accident occurred in New Jersey in November 2012, where vinyl chloride was released into the air and water after a Conrail train derailed and spilled its toxic contents into Mantua Creek in Paulsboro. The area was declared safe after standard procedures were followed for cleanup of this magnitude.

    Still, years later, a state health department conducted a survey that found that 10 percent of local residents suffered from nose and throat irritation, chronic headaches, and respiratory problems.

    As far as East Palestine, even experts cannot conclude what chemicals may be present since once vinyl chloride is burned, chemical by-products are formed. The problem with this is that the testing and monitoring equipment used to determine if drinking water and the environment are safe doesn't identify what chemicals are present. It can only show that chemicals are below a certain level. It's not hard to see the implications. Safe levels of one chemical could be very different from those of another.

  • What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Toxic Chemical Exposure Residents of East Palestine Are Experiencing?

    Following the derailment and fiery explosion of tankers carrying known hazardous and cancer-causing agents, some residents began to complain of the following symptoms:

    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Headaches
    • Skin irritation
    • Eye irritation
    • Burning cough

    Exposure to vinyl chloride has been linked to increased risks of rare forms of liver, brain, and lung cancers, along with leukemia and lymphomas.

  • Who Is Liable for Injuries and Illnesses Caused in the East Palestine, Ohio, Derailment Explosion?

    At Morgan and Morgan, we believe that Norfolk Southern is responsible and thus liable for any damages to the innocent victims of East Palestine, Ohio, and surrounding communities. It's possible the plan hatched by Norfolk Southern is one of the most disastrous responses to a chemical spill in recent history. The decision to burn off the chemicals was supposed to avert an explosion after the fires had been burning for two days. However, it released more than 1.1 million pounds of vinyl chloride into the air and environment.

    When vinyl chloride is burned, one of the toxic chemical by-products is phosgene gas, which was widely used in chemical warfare during the first World War. The implication for residents and others exposed to this deadly gas plume is staggering. Norfolk Southern seemed more concerned about resuming services than the effects on humans, wildlife, and water sources.

    Norfolk Southern has demonstrated that it is more focused on profits than investing in the development of safety standards and protocols. In each of the last four years, the company has seen an increase in accidents while increasing profits. This indicates they likely have their priorities misaligned with public safety.

    Railway companies also continue to manipulate our government through power, influence, and money as they send their lobbyists to argue against tighter control of the industry. All the while, they pay billions to shareholders doing better than the majority of the stock market.  

    Norfolk Southern isn't the only railroad that is playing with fire. Railroads across the board have cut workforces by almost a third over the last five years. These are employees that perform inspections like the one that may have detected issues and prevented the violent derailment in East Palestine. The railroads have also closed rail yards where inspections are routinely performed to decrease costs. All of these decisions are to the detriment of citizens that live anywhere near a railroad.   

    While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered Norfolk Southern to manage and pay for the cleanup in East Palestine, that might be akin to letting the fox guard the hen house. We've repeatedly seen how big influential companies use their agents to manipulate, deflect, and minimize the damage they've caused, even with government oversight.

    Already, residents of East Palestine are seeking independent testing because they can still smell the unmistakable odor of chemicals in their homes and are experiencing rashes, headaches, and other ill effects, despite Norfolk Southern and government entity reassurances. 

  • Contact Morgan and Morgan About Water Contamination and Other Concerns Regarding the Train Derailment in East Palestine, Ohio

    It's understandable to worry about exposure to toxic chemicals through no fault of your own. A class action against Norfolk Southern is already underway, and we urge you to contact us to discuss your claim. You could be entitled to medical expenses, compensation for pain and suffering, ongoing medical testing, property damage, and other losses.

    While the railroads have influence and money, you can be assured we will fight to protect your rights and use the same energy we brought that resulted in us winning landmark cases against big tobacco and enormous utility companies. Contact us today about holding Norfolk Southern accountable for your injuries.

  • Scroll down for more Load More