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Tens of thousands of fish have died since East Palestine train derailment, officials said

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Posted at 12:09 PM, Feb 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-23 14:09:45-05

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources said Thursday that the estimated number of fish that died in rivers and waterways after the Feb. 3 train derailment in East Palestine is now in excess of 40,000.

ODNR said it worked with a third party, EnviroScience Inc., to collect data on the number of dead fish.

Initial estimates from earlier this month indicated around 3,500 fish died across 7.5 miles of streams. ODNR wildlife officers located dead fish in Leslie Run, Bull Creek and a portion of the North Fork of Beaver Creek when the derailment occurred.

New estimates provided by ODNR show that number is significantly higher—with more than 38,000 minnows and 5,500 other types of fish dead, totaling more than 43,000 dead fish. The fish were all located within a 5-mile span from the derailment site.

As of Thursday, no terrestrial animal deaths have been reported from the derailment and subsequent chemical spill. Additionally, officials said the fish south of the tributaries appear to be healthy. The agency said it is confident the affected streams will recover.

ODNR and the Environmental Protection Agency will continue to monitor the area, but the cleanup of the dead fish in the streams is complete. There may be a handful of dead fish left in the streams but they don't cause an ecological concern at this point, officials said. There isn't a worry at this point about further chemical contamination.

The derailment

About 50 cars, including 10 carrying hazardous materials, derailed in a fiery crash Feb. 3 in East Palestine, Ohio. Vinyl chloride was later released into the air from five of those cars before crews ignited it to get rid of the highly flammable, toxic chemicals in a controlled environment, creating a dark plume of smoke.

Residents from nearby neighborhoods in Ohio and Pennsylvania were evacuated because of health risks from the fumes, but were told on Wednesday, Feb. 8 that it was safe to return home.

On Thursday, the National Transportation Safety Board released its initial report on the derailment, stating the train crew tried to stop the train in East Palestine when they received an alert about one of the car's wheel bearings overheating to a critical temperature of over 250 degrees above the ambient temperature.

READ MORE: NTSB Chair: East Palestine train derailment was ‘100% preventable’

This article was written by Drew Scofield for Scripps News Cleveland.