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Purdue University professors fight disinformation about East Palestine train derailment

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Purdue University professors told I-Team 8 Hoosiers should not be concerned about their water being contaminated by the train derailment, despite what you might see online.

Andrew Whelton is a professor teaching environmental and ecological engineering. He’s been following this situation in East Palestine from the very beginning.

He’s seen misinformation being spread online about the impact to Hoosiers.

“There’s a whole bunch of people pushing information that’s just not true. Not possible. There’s no way that West Lafayette’s drinking water could be contaminated by the disaster that occurred a 7 hour drive from here” Whelton said.

His Colleague Linda Lee who studied environmental contamination, agrees.

She told I-Team 8 that people here should not even be concerned about air pollution caused by the burning of chemicals from the derailed train.

“Unless we get wind currents that bring some of that over here, we don’t expect to be impacted, and by the time it travels very far, I would expect most of it to be gone or very diluted,” Lee said.

“Basically it’s like putting dye in a bathtub. You put a lot of red dye in a bathtub, it will be really dark, but as you fill that bathtub up with more and more water, the amount of chemical that is being diluted and it doesn’t pose a threat,” said Whelton who added, “The primary risk is right in the immediate area where the detonation occurred. Where the liquids were discharged into the rivers and streams and killed fish.”

Whelton told I-Team 8 people should pay attention to our upstream neighbors along the Ohio River for any concerning signs of contamination.

“Cincinnati has been doing a lot of water testing. All these different cities up along the Ohio river are not worried about the contamination coming down the Ohio River, so people in Indiana, especially those living down by the Ohio river, have nothing to worry about,” Whelton said.

Lee said the decision for crews in East Palestine to release the chemical and burn it early after the derailment likely lessened the groundwater contamination because it was released into the atmosphere in a different and less harmful form.