You may have read about the train accident that occurred on February 7, 2024 in Valley Falls, NY, not far from Williamstown, MA. A train pulling 94 cars, had 10 cars come-off the track while traveling through Valley Falls. Two cars, containing Rape seed cooking oil and plastic polypropylene pellets, fell into the Hoosic River, spilling their loads. Although the spilled material was not considered hazardous material – for human exposure, it was also not benign! Environmental stress and harm comes from these spilled materials in our water ways.
According to information from NOAA, non-petroleum oils like cooking oils can foul shorelines. Further, during breakdown in the environment, it can mix with debris, sink and form an impermeable cap on sediments, suffocating benthic resources. All non-petroleum oils can rapidly deplete oxygen levels in sediments and isolated water bodies due to the high biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), thus suffocating aquatic life. Additionally, other biological stresses are introduced to waterways.
Plastic pellets, when ingested by fish, turtles, and other aquatic life, may cause intestinal issues or blockages, severely injuring animals. Additionally, digestive juices can leach small amounts of plastic oils into the animal’s body, which can impact their health. During extended exposure to sunlight and abrasion on hard objects, micro-plastics that can form – further harming aquatic and marine animals through ingestion. This harm can propagate up the food chain.
What does this all mean? — Fundamentally, it means that spills, any kind that are introduced to our waterways, are a concern for us. Thus, HooRWA is currently reaching out to NYS DEC and other agencies, to voice our concerns and to ensure the proper remediation is performed, to ultimately provide a healthier waterway.