On Feb 3rd, a cargo train carrying the toxic chemical, vinyl chloride, fell off the tracks and burst into flames in northeastern Ohio due to a broken axle.
Three days after the train accident, officials chose to burn off the poisonous gases as a precautionary measure to prevent an explosion.
As a result of the so-called “controlled explosion”, hydrogen chloride and phosgene, a toxic substance that was during World War I, were released into the atmosphere.
On Feb. 12, after examining the air, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that tests have not “detected any levels of concern in the community that can be attributed to the incident at this time,”
However, nearly 1 million pounds of vinyl chloride were on this train and now, the EPA has confirmed it’s entered the Ohio River basin which is home to 25 million people.
Although there are no reported physical injuries at this point, residents have been experiencing unpleasant symptoms such as headaches, and a pungent smell of chlorine and smoke in the atmosphere.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources said the chemical spill resulting from the derailment had killed an estimated 3,500 small fish across 7½ miles of streams as of Wednesday.
On Monday, US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg turned to Twitter to speak about the devastating derailment in Ohio, while he was avoiding mentioning anything at a previous conference earlier that day.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn, said the derailment “will have a significant negative impact on the health and wellbeing of the residents for decades.”
“We need Congressional inquiry and direct action from [Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg] to address this tragedy,” Omar tweeted on Monday.