ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Concerns surrounding the lasting impacts of the train derailment in Ohio on February 4, stretch far and wide. Wondering if the controlled release and burn of vinyl chloride had any impact on air quality in our region?

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)—in conjunction with the EPA and state health department—they have been closely monitoring air quality in our region. No impact on 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.  

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 Health Department also released a statement along with resources 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.

The controlled release and burn occurred on February 6 from about 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.—two days after the accident. The burn, monitored by the EPA, warranted evacuations in the immediate area over the potentially hazardous concentrations of vinyl chloride being released.

The evacuated area was a space one mile by two miles wide, including 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 those 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. Even so, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s model making the rounds on social media shows particles from the fire extending into New England and Canada: