By Sophie Young and Gavin Mitten
The Ohio EPA is supervising the drilling of monitoring wells to test for chemicals in groundwater near the train derailment site in East Palestine.
Groundwater that goes to the municipal water system is fed from the northwest and flows east, according to the Ohio EPA. The shallow wells are between the village’s wellfield and the two impacted waterways, Leslie and Sulphur runs, and are being tested to ensure the safety of municipal water.
“The drilling is performed by Norfolk Southern contractors under a plan that has been approved through unified command,” said James Lee, the relations manager for the Ohio EPA. “Ohio EPA is overseeing the drilling of the monitoring wells.”
The contractors drilling the wells are HD Sonic Drilling, Stantec and Arcadis.
Unified command allows agencies with different authorizations and responsibilities working in a single jurisdiction to function together to address an incident, according to FEMA.
“Four monitoring wells have been drilled thus far,” Lee said. “Groundwater sample results have not yet been received.”
Two more wells have been drilled immediately below the derailment site, according to the Office of the Governor. Ten wells planned to be drilled near the site. Results from the six wells already drilled are being sent to independent labs for testing.
If the groundwater becomes contaminated, chemicals will be used to treat the groundwater, according to Arcadis. Natural processes like bio degeneration, dilution, chemical reactions, evaporation and sorption will also be relied on. Sorption occurs when one substance permeates or is dissolved by another substance.
Testing for the various chemicals released by the derailment will continue for the foreseeable future.
“There currently is no end date for monitoring,” Lee said. “This is a long-term process that will be ongoing.”
Groundwater moves slowly underground, and the chemicals that move with the groundwater flow slowly, as well, according to the EPA. That means, due to the slow movement, contamination is often not detected for long periods of time and water supplies must be monitored for years.