Ohio producer discusses long-term concerns about train derailment

As clean-up efforts continue in the aftermath of the train derailment in East Palestine, some farmers are concerned about the long-term impacts on agriculture.

John Grafton has a small cow-calf operation, poultry, and honeybees within 25 miles of the accident.

“Farmers are talking about how it’s impacting their sales of livestock and sales of crop,” he says. “There are also some produce growers in that area. What is this going to do to those producers down the road? Not today, but what about in five months or five years down the road? What is this going to do to some of these small businesses? That’s my bigger concern: down-the-road ramifications.”

He tells Brownfield there are a lot of unknowns since testing and clean-up efforts are ongoing.

“When we talk about East Palestine it’s definitely a concern, especially for the people that live right there in that village and within 25-30 miles downwind,” he says. “When (officials) did the controlled burn, we think of the soot falling and landing on the farmland. Officials are saying water is safe and it may be safe. I’m not a chemist to know how to read all that. But we wonder about what the long-term effects are going to be. We can see it’s safe now and not affecting people right now, but what is it going to do for the generation coming?”

Grafton is the president of Jefferson County Farm Bureau. He was in Washington D.C. Tuesday to Thursday for the 2023 Ohio Farm Bureau County Presidents’ Trip and spoke about these concerns with Senator Sherrod Brown.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) hosted a farmer roundtable discussion on Thursday in Salem, Ohio. The event focused on the planting season and concerns about potential agricultural impacts caused by the train derailment.

In the latest East Palestine update provided by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, there were concerns about the delay in removal of contaminated soil from the site.

There are more than 24,000 tons of excavated soil waiting for removal, compared to the nearly 3,000 tons that have been removed. DeWine and the Ohio EPA expressed concern that the threats of future contamination cannot be fully eliminated until the soil is removed. The governor is calling on the U.S. EPA and Norfolk Southern to identify and authorize more sites to take the contaminated soil. The waste must be disposed of at a permitted hazardous waste treatment and disposal facility.

The release also shows that final necropsy and lab testing results on a deceased snapping turtle from the area show no evidence to support chemical toxicity as a cause of death. Deceased animals have been submitted to the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory for evaluation to determine if their deaths were related to the chemical spill. Final necropsy results on a beef calf, show no evidence of chemical toxicity as a cause of death.

Audio: John Grafton

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