DERAILED: Disaster in East Palestine

Families wondering if well water is safe after Ohio train derailment

The Ohio EPA said it has not seen anything at this point to suggest private wells would be impacted, but East Palestine residents aren't so sure.

Families wondering if well water is safe after Ohio train derailment
Gene J. Puskar / AP

Residents in East Palestine, Ohio, are still not allowed to return home after a 50-car train derailment Friday.

Officials are now assessing the air and water quality after the accident.

The derailment caused a massive fire that sent smoke billowing into the air. Crews were also forced to release some toxic chemicals from the train to prevent an explosion.

Now, some people who live in the area say they’re not confident the drinking water from their private wells is safe and they want their water tested long after the cleanup is complete.

Ohio National Guard members in hazmat suits prepare to assess hazards from a train derailment.

Air near Ohio train derailment deemed safe for residents to return

Officials said East Palestine residents can return home after being evacuated due to burning toxic gases from portions of the 50-car derailment.


Linda Murphy lives roughly 3 miles from the site of the accident and just up the hill from Leslie Run Creek. 

“There were several dead fish floating along multiple locations on Leslie Run,” Murphy said. 

The Murphys have well water, but right now, they’re not touching it. 

“That’s what we bathe in, that's what we drink, that's what we cook with and that’s what I also give to my animals, so it’s a major concern, and they could not reassure me the water was safe to drink. They didn’t say it wasn’t and absolutely refrained from saying that it was,” Murphy said. 

Murphy got one of her horses out of town, but another horse named Burt refused to step onto a trailer. 

“Obviously it might not be instantaneous where there’s a result — this could be long-term for years and years,” Murphy said.

Portions of a Norfolk and Southern freight train that derailed.

Ohio governor orders 'urgent evacuation' of town following derailment

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine warned of potential for a "catastrophic explosion" and advised residents of East Palestine, Ohio to evacuate the area.


Their neighbors, Joe and Amanda White, worry about their well water too. They just returned home after a night away with a case of bottled water to share with their golden retriever, Murphy.

“Our well is 300 feet down. It could have got into our wells and our drinking water, or how long if it’s not in there now? Is it going to be in there in a week? Everything’s going to seep through the ground — it has to go somewhere,” the Whites said.

The Ohio EPA said it has not seen anything at this point to suggest private wells would be impacted.

Groundwater protection plans will be considered as part of long-term remediation. As far as water in streams, the Ohio EPA says environmental contractors are taking water quality samples daily with results expected in the coming days. They’ve also put up earthen dams in a stream close to the derailment to capture contaminants.

"I want my water tested every week — at least every week — for the next few months until we get a nice record of several tests that says it's free and clear of anything,” Joe White said.

Linda Murphy wants long-term water testing too for her safety and peace of mind.

“I would like someone to reach out and reassure us that yeah, it’s safe — but do I wholeheartedly believe that? No. But ongoing testing down the road, not only today but in the future, and a relationship moving forward where we can be confident,” Murphy said.

A man on a bicycle stops at a railroad crossing as a train passes.

Scripps News investigation: Increasing incidents at rail crossings

After an Amtrak train collided with a dump truck in Missouri, Newsy found incidents at similar highway-rail crossings are happening more often.


This story was originally published by Tara Morgan on