University student finds thousands of fish, other aquatic life dead in East Palestine creeks

Published: Feb. 20, 2023 at 10:33 PM EST
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EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WOIO) - State and government officials have assured residents of East Palestine that their lives can go back to normal, but many folks there aren’t buying it.

19 Investigators met with someone who is documenting the environmental devastation and the impact it’s having on wildlife.

“It’s terrible to look at,” said Sam Hall, a Sophomore at West Virginia University studying Wildlife and Fisheries Resource Management. “It’s a catastrophe. Everything is dead there’s nothing. You shouldn’t walk through a creek and see piles of dead things floating past you, it should be life.”

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources estimates a total of 3,500 aquatic animals died in East Palestine, but just this weekend university of West Virginia student Sam Hall said he found tens of thousands more.

“There’s dead frogs, dead crayfish, dead fish, everything in the creek is dead and it was all just sitting on the bottom covered in fungus rotting and there’s just a terrible chemical smell through this entire valley,” Hall said.

Hall wanted to see the aftermath of the disaster for himself.

He took videos of the water at Leslie Run creek.

“It’s like you took some crazy drugs,” Hall said of how the water looked. “It’s not natural, and it will go downstream, and it releases these crazy fumes that burn your nose and I don’t know my eyes are starting to get a little itchy just standing over here by the creek.”

Hall launched a project to document the effects of the fish kill in East Palestine, which is accessible to the general public.

Locals can even upload their own photos.

“More detailed information can get accessed by universities and researchers throughout i-naturalist it’s used for all different types of projects in the wildlife field,” he said.

Hall isn’t the only one who’s seen the derailments’ impact on animals.

Taylor Holzer runs Parker Dairy, and is registered with ODNR as a fox keeper.

He said two of his foxes have died since the derailment, and several others are still very sick.

“Out of nowhere, he just started coughing really hard, just shut down, and he had liquid diarrhea and just went very fast,” Holzer said.

Holzer is still busy trying to save his other foxes, but he hopes his story will raise awareness.

“The chemicals that we’re being told are safe in the air, that’s definitely not safe for the animals or people,” Holzer said.

Veterinarians are recommending that anyone who had a pet die in the area since the derailment have a necropsy done to determine the cause of death.

Norfolk Southern said they have already removed 15,000 pounds of contaminated soil and over one million gallons of contaminated water from the derailment site.