ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Concerns surrounding the lasting impacts of the train derailment in East Palestine, OH on February 4, 2023 stretch far and wide. News 8 has received multiple inquiries wondering if the controlled release and burn of Vinyl Chloride from the site of the derailment by Norfolk Southern had any impact to air quality in our region.

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, in conjunction with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the NYS Department of Health, they have been closely monitoring air quality in our region and no impact to human health has been detected.

Their full statement is below:

DEC takes impacts on state air quality very seriously, including those that occur outside of New York State with the potential for impacts within state borders. DEC is coordinating with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to monitor any potential impacts to New York State from the derailment and fire in Ohio, which was approximately 90 miles south-southwest of New York’s border with Pennsylvania. No human health impacts have been reported at this time.  

-New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC)

The DEC also included they are continuing to monitor DEC ambient air monitoring stations across the state to continue to monitor for any issues. The New York State Department of Health also released a statement along with resources and contact information to answer and questions for health-related concerns as a result of the derailment.

If New Yorkers have health-related questions concerning impacts from air pollutants from the Ohio train derailment and fire, they can call NYS Department of Health, Bureau of Toxic Substance Assessment (BTSA) (518-402-7800), leave a message and the call will be returned to them, or they can email NYS DOH also has an odor fact sheet and one on smoke/fires as well.

– New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH)

The controlled release and burn occurred two days after the accident on February 6, 2023, from approximately 4:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. EST. The burn, monitored by the U.S. EPA did warrant evacuations in the immediate surrounding areas due to concerns that the concentrations of the Vinyl Chloride while being released would be hazardous to human health and risk injury.

The evacuated area was a space one mile by two miles wide, and included parts of Ohio and Pennsylvania. The areas evacuated are shown on the map below, with the red areas noting where the concentration of chemicals during the release would be deadly if inhaled, and the orange areas indicating places where severe injury and lung damage were possible. Outside of these areas it was deemed safe for people to remain.

Map showing the areas that were expected to be at risk during the controlled release of Vinyl Chloride in East Palestine, OH on February 6, 2023 (Courtesy: EPA/Ohio National Guard/U.S. Department of Defense)

As a note, this incident as mentioned in the NYS DEC statement above occurred 90 miles south of the New York – Pennsylvania border. Rochester is a further 75 miles north of the border, placing most nearly 165 miles north of this incident, the associated burns, and evacuation areas where the risk to human life was greatest.