COLUMBIANA COUNTY, Ohio (WKBN) – As more effects from the East Palestine train derailment come to light, one of the concerns of local residents has been water contamination after dead fish were found in nearby streams.
“Leslie Run comes out of East Palestine and that goes into Bull Creek, which then goes into North Fork. And we know for sure that there has been some fish kill in Leslie Run and Bull Creek, and some portions of the North Fork,” said Matthew Smith, assistant regional scenic river manager for the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves.
WKBN went out to these areas and was able to spot some dead fish in Leslie Run and Bull Creek.
At a press conference, Kurt Kollar with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Emergency Response said they are monitoring the situation.
“We knew at the onset of this incident there was impact to Sulfur Creek and waters of the state of Ohio. Since that point in time, we have been able to successfully control that runoff and contain the water and either treat it in place, along with a robust sampling program for the water quality,” Kollar said.
Leslie Run, Bull Creek and North Fork are all a part of Little Beaver Creek. Smith says Little Beaver Creek was designated as a State Wild and Scenic River in 1974, then as a National Scenic River in 1975.
The Division of Wildlife and its partners have worked for years on conservation efforts in Little Beaver Creek.
“One of the things they’ve done in the North Fork of Beaver Creek is try to hellbender salamanders, which used to be very abundant within the stream, and so they are going through efforts to reintroduce them into the North Fork of Little Beaver Creek,” Smith said.
Hellbender salamanders are an endangered species in Ohio. WKBN asked Smith what it would mean if the chemicals directly affect the hellbenders in the creek.
“We really don’t know any of the effects on the hellbender population where we’ve done the reintroduction of those in the streams. It’s gonna take time to know what the effects are,” Smith said.
Apart from the effects on the fish and salamanders, the question of well water was brought up during the EPA’s press conference on Monday.
“We are awaiting those results and looking at those well logs and help those citizens evaluate issues on that. As far as the city’s well field to date, that is still protected,” Kollar said.
Kollar did state that well water should be safe to drink, despite contaminated surface water.
“Groundwater wells are designed to not take in, we don’t have surface water intakes. Nor are your wells at your home. So by design, they’re protected away from the surface water or any material that would be deposited in the train rail accident,” Kollar said.