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U.S. EPA deems East Palestine park safe for annual Easter egg hunt

A crane does work in East Palestine, Ohio.
Oliver Morrison
90.5 WESA
Crews remediate at the East Palestine city park on Thursday, Feb. 16.

East Palestine, Ohio’s Easter egg hunt will go on as planned at a city park this weekend after the Environmental Protection Agency tested for harmful chemicals in seven locations in the park and didn’t find dangerous levels of several volatile organic compounds and dioxins.

Some residents worried about whether it would be safe for children after a train derailment in February released toxic chemicals, including into a stream that runs through the park where the egg hunt typically takes place.

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Norfolk Southern has hired contractors to remediate the stream over the last couple of months.

The EPA said it doesn’t appear the chemicals have migrated from the stream and into the park soil.

"Results show that levels of dioxin and semi-volatile organic compounds are well below any levels that would require restricting activities, and all are either at or below typical background levels in the United States,” according to an EPA statement on Thursday.

“We’re thrilled that the testing has confirmed that our beloved park is safe for our community to enjoy,” said East Palestine Mayor Trent Conway in a press release. “We want to thank the U.S. EPA for their comprehensive evaluation, which has allowed us to put any concerns to rest and focus on the upcoming events that will be hosted at our park again.”

The Easter egg hunt had already been moved from the grass to the tennis and basketball courts, as a precaution, and those courts have been thoroughly washed. Norfolk Southern, the train company, donated 3,000 candied eggs for the event and 30 eggs with certificates to McDonald’s.

In an earlier release this week, the EPA said the ongoing work to remediate streams in East Palestine has been successful and is nearing completion.

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.