East Palestine Train Derailment Water Quality
Pittsburgh, PA — Big Pine Consultants LLC will be collecting water quality samples in waterbodies ”downstream” and “downwind” of the East Palestine train derailment tomorrow, Feb. 17, 2023. Big Pine is a small Pittsburgh-based environmental consulting firm and our mission is to serve the communities where we live and work. As this is our line of work, it just makes sense that we should do this for our community. Eight sampling sites have been identified for sampling. Four samples will be collected at various distances downstream of the incident to try to identify a pollution gradient of spilled liquids. Four samples will be collected progressively further to the southeast of the site to identify a pollution gradient associated with airborne pollutants falling back to the ground surface. The sampling is being timed to attempt to capture the run-off event from the rain that is forecast this afternoon and evening.
Big Pine will collect general water quality parameters including water temperature, pH, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen (unfortunately we are still waiting for the conductivity sensor that has been on back order for the past 6 weeks) using our YSI ProDSS multimeter instrument at each sampling location. Big Pine will collect grab samples for laboratory analyses and send them to an ALS laboratory (www.alsglobal.com) overnight for processing. A Chain-of-Custody form will be completed for the samples being processed to preserve integrity. The samples will be analyzed for Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), Semi-Volatile Organic Compounds (SVOC), Gasoline Range Organics (GRO), and Diesel Range Organics (DRO). Laboratory results are expected to be received by Big Pine in approximately seven business days after sampling. Big Pine will review the results and prepare a new Blog Post to describe the findings after the results are received. We will do our best to provide that information as soon as we can.
We feel the parameters being sampled for will cover many, but not all (or even most), of the substances that have been released from the incident in East Palestine based on the constituents that result from combustion of Vinyl Chloride (Huggett, C. and B.C. Levin, 1986). The goal of this sampling is mainly to identify the distance that impacts have occurred and provide some insights into the concentrations of observed pollutants entering our streams in different locations. The findings will be relatively high-level. They will not tell individual property owners whether the streams at their house are safe for watering animals, but might help identify the relative risk based on distance from the site. For instance, if the study finds higher concentrations of pollutants near East Palestine, we would be able to see the relative drop in concentration at locations further away and infer how much overall pollution was received. We will not know precisely all of the pollutants that were received in any given location or their precise concentrations beyond the specific sample locations and analyses performed. We will have a list of pollutants and concentrations that are observed in samples for each location sampled, but because we are not able to look at all potential pollutants in all potential locations, the list will not be comprehensive or complete. That is, we will know that certain pollutants are there and in what concentrations, but we won’t be able to determine anything for chemicals that are not included on the list of analyses. In short, this will tell us some things, but not everything. We are a small business, have limited budget, and are doing the best we can with the resources we have available.
This independent sampling is being completed and self-funded by Big Pine Consultants LLC only. There is no funding or sampling being provided by any government agency or other company related to this effort. Big Pine Consultants LLC is not part of the government or Norfolk Southern response team and is also not being retained by any outside 3rd parties seeking legal remedies against Norfolk Southern. Given that we are a small company just trying to help, please note the following disclaimers. All data, findings, reports, results, photographs, and publications related to our work on the study described above are the sole property of Big Pine Consultants LLC. Only Big Pine Consultants LLC may rely on the data. Big Pine is providing the information for free and welcomes feedback on the interpretations made. Big Pine Consultants LLC reserves the right to update the findings and interpretations at any time and without notice. Reliance on the data or interpretations provided by Big Pine Consultants LLC will be at your own risk. Big Pine Consultants LLC makes no warranties or representations, written or implied, as to the accuracy or completeness of any data or interpretations, or their suitability for any purpose whatsoever.
- Huggett, C. and B.C. Levin, 1986. Toxicity of the pyrolysis and combustion of poly(vinyl chlorides): a literature assessment (govinfo.gov). U.S. DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE, National Bureau of Standards, National Engineering Laboratory, Center for Fire Research. Gaithersburg, MD 20899