COLUMBUS, Ohio (WJW) — The number of fish and other aquatic creatures killed after a train derailed Feb. 3 in East Palestine, dumping toxic chemicals into 7 1/2 miles of waterways around the crash site, is estimated to be more than 43,000, state officials announced Thursday.
The department’s initial sampling showed 3,500 dead aquatic species, mostly minnows and small fish, Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Mary Mertz said Thursday. That was based on visual observation on Feb. 6 and Feb. 7.
Actual data collected from survey sites put the actual number lower, at just under 3,000 species. About 2,200 of those were minnows, and the rest were crayfish, amphibians and macroinvertebrates — and none of which were endangered or threatened, she said.
That data allowed the department to calculate the overall impact at 38,222 dead minnows, and another about 5,500 from those other species across a 5-mile span from Sulphur Run to where Bull Creek flows into the north fork of Little Beaver Creek.
It’s believed the fish kills happened in the 24 hours immediately after the derailment, according to Mertz. In the days following the derailment, ODNR officers didn’t find any dead wildlife along the Ohio River in Jefferson County or at the Cumberland lock and dam, she said.
“It’s important to stress that these small fish are all believed to have been killed immediately after the derailment,” Mertz said. “Because the chemicals were contained, ODNR has not seen any additional signs of aquatic life suffering in the streams. In fact, we have seen live fish return to Leslie Run.”
The dead fish were disposed, to keep other animals from feeding on them, she said.
The department is awaiting test results on non-aquatic species including three birds and an opossum, but they do not believe those animals were affected.