(WKBN) – The train derailment in East Palestine continues to make national news. The disaster was profound to be sure, but did you know that chemical accidents, including some that are massive, happen quite frequently and right here in Ohio?
The Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters has mapped out where and when these accidents occur. For instance, in Ohio alone, there have been 12 in the last 18 months.
One was a chemical exposure at Ultium Cells in Lordstown where several people were treated for exposure on July 23, 2022. Two employees were taken to the hospital while others were treated on-site.
The East Palestine train derailment and Ultium Cells exposure are included in the 12 incidents. Here are the rest: (Source The Coalition to Prevent Chemical Disasters; Note: Some incidents tracked in this inventory do not appear due to a lack of available information on their exact location.)
- US Ecology (Aug. 22, 2022), Canton Township, one person was killed and four hospitalized following a hydrogen sulfide release at the hazardous waste management facility. The local fire department stated that the release was confined to the plant and there were no concerns outside the facility.
- Dover Chemical (June 11, 2021), Dover, Ohio, a fire and hydrochloric acid spill led to a rapid shutdown of the facility. The shutdown caused leakage of hydrochloric acid. Local roads were closed and a shelter-in-place was issued for nearby residents.
- Quasar Energy Group (June 14, 2022), Wooster, Ohio, Explosion, Three people were injured following an explosion at the biosolids processing plant.
- Hygenic Corporation (Sept. 15, 2022), Akron, Ohio, an unidentified chemical was released from the rubber manufacturer and caused authorities to evacuate neighboring businesses and close local roads.
- PVS Chemicals (June 3, 2022) Painesville, Ohio, A spill of 150 gallons of blended acid caused employees to evacuate the building. No one was injured. The fire department tested air samples and inspected the inside to determine it was not an active leak, and no vapors escaped the building.
- Cenovus Refinery (Nov. 4, 2021), Lima, Ohio, a fire at the refinery injured four workers.
- Glycerin Traders (Jan. 14-15), Defiance, Ohio, a report of a strong smell from a resident and brown residue in a creek was found to have been caused by a contract worker allowing fuel to enter a storm sewer. About 350,000 gallons of the liquid leaked. The EPA was notified.
- Toledo Refinery (Nov. 23, 2021), Toledo, Ohio, an explosion and fire at the refinery closed local roads but no evacuations were ordered. There were no reported injuries.
- BP Refinery (Sept. 21, 2022), Oregon, Ohio, two people were killed in a fire at the facility.
- Perstorp Polyols (Feb. 3, 2023), Toledo, Ohio, a sulfuric acid spill happened during a delivery, spilling 500 gallons on the ground.
For some of these companies, there are multiple incidents. For example, Dover Chemical has a long history with Ohio and U.S. EPA in connection to its facility in Stark County.
In an October 2022 settlement with the company, Dover agreed to implement and fund natural resources restoration and protection projects to resolve alleged state and federal natural resources damages related to a 2017 complaint that alleged that the plant had been releasing hazardous substances to the site “for decades.” That is the latest case, but there are others.
There are over 1,314 TRI (Toxic release inventory) facilities in Ohio. A TRI facility is required to report on releases of toxic chemicals into the air, water, and land and also on chemical transfers. Ohio ranks six out of 56 states and territories based on total releases per square mile, according to the U.S. EPA.
In Trumbull County, there are 20 TRI facilities. The top five for releases are RMI Titanium; Cleveland Works LLC; Novelis Corp; Ajax Tocco Warren Plant and US. Army National Guard Camp Ravenna.
In Mahoning County, there are 19 TRI facilities. The top five for releases are Datco Manufacturing; Vallourec Star; Astro Shapes; Whitacre Greer and Material Science Corp.
Columbiana County has nine TRI facilities. The top five for releases are Heritage Thermal Services; AS American, Inc; Ventra Salem; Quaker City Castings and Albco Foundry.
The EPA has been collecting TRI information since 1987. The mission is to protect people and the environment and is a “powerful resource that provides the public with information about how TRI chemical wastes are managed,” according to the U.S. EPA.
There were many saying that most people in East Palestine were not aware of the chemicals that are traveling through their backyards every day. That could be said for almost any community that has a rail line running through it or industrial plants nearby, for that matter.
More alarming in the East Palestine derailment is that first responders apparently did not know what chemicals were running through their jurisdiction at any given time because of chemical classifications, which are dictated by federal authorities.
That is something Ohio Governor Mike DeWine wants to change calling the situation “absurd.”
East Palestine surely has years of recovery and investigation into the Norfolk Southern train derailment and vent of vinyl chloride, which experts say prevented a massive explosion. Both Ohio EPA and U.S. EPA alluded to this time frame committing to staying in the community for months or years; however long it takes. But taking a look at the numbers and Ohio’s concentration of TRI Facilities and the numbers of rail lines, it seems important to be on top of the chemicals we keep.