The security of our drinking water should always be a top priority, but the ease of access to it lulls us into a false sense of security. Turn on the tap, and fresh, clear water pours out in a seemingly inexhaustible supply.
Contamination incidents are rare, considering the scale of the water delivery system in the United States. While it is true that millions of Americans are exposed to poor-quality drinking water, most of the population has access to on-demand clean drinking water.
There are two primary drinking water sources in the United States, groundwater and surface water.
Groundwater sources come from underground aquifers, naturally occurring layers of porous rock, sand, or gravel that hold water. Groundwater is generally less susceptible to contamination than surface water but still requires treatment and monitoring.
Surface water sources include rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, which local or state governments generally manage. Surface water is treated to remove contaminants and disinfected before being distributed to homes and businesses for drinking.
Regarding contamination, surface water is much more susceptible than groundwater because it sits on the surface rather than underground. Some notable contamination sources are industrial activity, mining, sewage overflows, agricultural activity, and accidents.
Accidents like what happened in Ohio can potentially pose severe and long-term effects on the drinking water for millions of people.
What Happened In Ohio?
At 8:55 pm on February 3rd, 2023, a freight train hauling 151 cars derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. In total, 51 cars derailed on the town’s East side, creating a pile that subsequently caught fire and burned for many days.
Amongst the derailed cars were eleven, which contained hazardous materials.
Of particular concern was the fact that the train was carrying vinyl chloride and butyl acrylate. These chemicals are especially dangerous to our health.
On February 4th, the EPA began monitoring the air quality and implementing measures to contain any released materials from the derailment.
The National Guard was called out on February 5th, and the area within a mile of the site was placed under an evacuation order. The rest of the town is ordered to shelter in place.
On February 6th, officials completed a release of the hazardous materials into a trench where they could be burned off in a controlled fashion. The release was achieved using a controlled detonation.
The reason behind the detonation and controlled burn was that officials were concerned that the Vinyl Chloride could explode, resulting in a far worse disaster.
The evacuation order was lifted on February 8th, and in the following days, the air and water quality were tested, and the air and water were determined to be safe.
What Was The Aftermath Of The Ohio Derailment?
As of the writing of this article, the Ohio train derailment is over a month old. In that time, a lot has occurred, but since this article is about water safety, I will focus on issues affecting water quality.
Despite officials’ efforts, it is clear that hazardous chemicals made their way into several waterways, killing over 40,000 fish. Other animals got sick or died as far as ten miles from the derailment site.
Evidence of hazardous materials from the train was found in many local waterways, such as Sulphur Run, Leslie Run, Bull Creek, and as far away as the Ohio River.
In addition, oily substances were found in the ground and the water in the surrounding areas.
Despite this, officials claim that the air and water are safe. The residents, on the other hand, reported experiencing skin rash and nausea within hours of returning to their homes.
It is clear that hazardous materials were in both the air and the water and that contamination had definite effects on fish, animals, pets, and even humans.
Is Our Water Safe From Events Like What Happened In Ohio?
The short answer is no. Train derailments and accidents happen quickly and hold the potential to release tens of thousands of gallons of hazardous materials into the waterways that feed directly into the reservoirs or aquifers from which our drinking water is drawn.
Even though our drinking water is treated before it reaches our taps, there is never a guarantee that the chemicals carried by these trains can be effectively filtered or are even tested for.
Every time an event like this happens, there is a chance that the water from your tap will be contaminated very rapidly. An incident could occur late at night or early in the morning; you only find out about it while drinking your morning cup of coffee made with contaminated water.
What Can Be Done To Be Better Prepared For Events As We Saw In Ohio?
The first thing you can do is install the best water filter you can afford in your home. This may not filter every chemical that could contaminate your water, but it is better than nothing. Aside from water filtration, you need to ensure that you have adequate water stored so that if your local water supply is contaminated, you will have access to clean water.
In addition to securing your water security, you must consider your physical safety. Every family member must have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect themselves from chemicals in the air, water, or even rain.
Especially if you need to evacuate, there is a good possibility you will be driving through contaminated areas. A properly fitted respirator with the appropriate canisters, gloves, boots, safety goggles, and disposable rain gear are all items that will help to protect you from chemicals in the environment.
Bug-out bags will be one thing that you will want ready to go in the event that an event such as a train derailment happens. Sometimes waiting for an evacuation order is not advisable, and the best course of action is to grab the family with their bug-out bags and head out of town.
If we consider the risk of events such as we saw in Ohio compared to the size of the country, your chance of experiencing contaminated drinking water is pretty low.
However, most of the events that preppers are ready for involve storing water, food, and supplies to be self-sufficient for extended periods of time.
The real key is to not place too much trust in the officials or local government since they are interested in seeing the area reopened and commerce returned to normal as quickly as possible. At the end of the day, the only one you can count on for your safety is yourself.
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