ODNR Director Mary Mertz announced on Thursday, Feb. 23, that roughly 38,222 minnows and about 5,550 other aquatic animals such as small fish, crayfish, amphibians and macroinvertebrates were killed in the five-mile span of waterways from the derailment site. (Related: There more hazardous chemicals discovered at Norfolk Southern train derailment site in East Palestine.)
The ODNR noted that on Feb. 15, the number of aquatic animals killed by the disaster was less than 3,000, primarily minnows and small fish, based on an initial investigation of four sites around the train derailment area.
The state agency said it went to the train derailment site the morning after the crash to determine the impact of the chemical spill on aquatic life, to survey nearby waterways for dead aquatic animals and to collect data and specimens to inform the total. The ODNR collaborated with private company EnviroScience to help collect data on the number of dead aquatic animals in the area and to help collect and remove these dead animals from the waters to prevent further harm to any other animals in the area.
The ODNR and EnviroScience estimate that, over the 7.5 miles of land immediately affected by the chemical spill from the Norfolk Southern train derailment, aquatic species living in waterways located within five miles of the site were killed immediately.
"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," noted Mertz. "These small fish are all believed to have been killed immediately after the derailment."
Mertz added that ODNR officers searched for additional dead aquatic wildlife "beyond the impacted waterways" in the days after the crash. These searches brought officers to the Ohio River down through Jefferson County and at the New Cumberland Locks and Dam, a dam around 20 miles south of East Palestine. These searches did not find any dead aquatic animals.
The director added that the agency is also waiting for test results on non-aquatic animals found near the train derailment, including birds and opossums. The ODNR does not believe these non-aquatic animals were immediately made sick by the derailment.
An ODNR representative noted that there is "no immediate threat" to the aquatic life in Leslie Run creek, and that live fish have already returned there.
"We're happy to see live fish have already returned to Leslie Run, that's a great sign. The fact that we're not seeing any fish in distress is a great sign," said the representative.
The ODNR added that it still does not understand the long-term effects of the train derailment, and the representative said the department is still unable to put a timeline on how long it will take for the environment around the crash to fully recover.
Learn more about how the East Palestine disaster is affecting the local environment at Ecology.news.
Watch this clip from "Tucker Carlson Tonight" on Fox News as host Tucker Carlson talks about the East Palestine residents who have been getting headaches and coughing up blood in the aftermath of the train derailment.