The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) estimates more than 43,000 fish and other aquatic animals have died as a result of the train disaster in East Palestine, Ohio, earlier this month.
ODNR director Mary Mertz announced Thursday that roughly 38,222 minnows and about 5,550 other aquatic animals — such as small fish, crayfish, amphibians, and macroinvertebrates — were killed in the 5-mile span of waterway from the derailment site.
“Although dead aquatic species still remain in the impacted waterways, the entirety of the impact to the aquatic life is believed to have occurred in the first 24-hours after the derailment,” the ODNR stated.
Mertz added that “these small fish are all believed to have been killed immediately after the derailment.”
The agency also said that there is “no immediate threat” to aquatic life in East Palestine’s Leslie Run creek, and that live fish have actually returned to the waterways.
Mertz explained that the ODNR collected their samples over the course of two days — February 6 and 7 — and that “following collection, EnviroScience counted, identified, measured, and arranged disposal of the aquatic species to limit impact to other wildlife that might feed on affected aquatic species.”
The ODNR director added that investigators applied a science-based calculation, based on observations of a sample of 2,938 aquatic animals.
“Since then, additional work has been completed to remove more dead fish from the water, although that removal is not part of the survey,” Mertz noted.
“The investigation has thus far concluded that of the 7-and-a-half-mile impacted area, the species were killed over a 5-mile span,” the ODNR director added.
Mertz also noted that officers searched for additional dead aquatic wildlife “beyond the impacted waterways” in the days that followed — such as the Ohio River down through Jefferson County and at the Cumberland lock and dam — and did not find any dead aquatic animals.
The ODNR director added that the agency is currently waiting for test results on non-aquatic animals, which include birds and opossums.
“We do not believe any of these animals were made sick by the train derailment, but we have submitted those specimens to the Ohio Department of Agriculture and will wait for those test results before making that judgement,” Mertz said.