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The Harmar train derailment hasn’t impacted local drinking water or fish, state officials say

The train derailment in Harmar doesn’t appear to have impacted the fish or animals nearby yet, according to a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Friday afternoon.

The train derailed on Thursday at around 3:15 p.m. when it hit a dump truck carrying stone at a private crossing. In total, 17 cars and 2 locomotives derailed.

Some rail cars were leaking a kind of oil called “petroleum distillate” but have now been secured, according to a statement by Norfolk Southern, the railway company. The company says the tankers that did fall in the water didn’t appear to be leaking, although some plastic pellets had escaped from other cars that had fallen into the water. Those plastic pellets were being contained, the company said.

Lauren Frailey, the spokesperson for the state DEP, said that the four nearby drinking water systems were notified of the accident, but none have reported any issues with the river water. The Oakmont Water Authority stopped taking in river water for four hours as a precautionary measure but has since restarted its normal operations.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said they were on hand to help and would be performing some air quality monitoring throughout the cleanup.

River traffic between mile markers 12 and 14 on the Allegheny River continued to be closed, according to William Russel, a spokesperson for the U.S. Coast Guard. Any boaters who wanted to pass through the area need to contact the Captain of the Port of Pittsburgh, he said.

Local Harmar emergency officials encouraged the public to stay away from the area in order to help speed cleanup. The cleanup is expected to continue through the weekend.

Some local environmental advocates say that the train derailment is an example of unnecessary risks the region faces because of the large amount of petrochemicals that pass through the region by train. They said these risks would only increase as the region considers allowing double-stack trains through the heart of Pittsburgh.

“Each time this happens it shows that we are playing a game of trying to dodge bullets as far as public safety is concerned,” stated Glenn Olcrest, co-founder of Rail Pollution Protection Pittsburgh.

Oliver Morrison is a general assignment reporter at WESA. He previously covered education, environment and health for PublicSource in Pittsburgh and, before that, breaking news and weekend features for the Wichita Eagle in Kansas.