Farmers taking precautions after East Palestine train accident

Farmers taking precautions after East Palestine train accident
Mar 13, 2023

Kevin Baker is looking for testing facilities to prove to his customers that his products are safe

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Farmers close to the site of a train accident are taking precautions to support their farm businesses.

Kevin Baker is a dairy farmer from New Waterford, Ohio.

His farm, Baker’s Golden Dairy, which bottles and sells milk on-farm and in stores in the community, is about six miles away from where a Norfolk Southern train derailed. The train lost 51 cars, 11 of which were loaded with hazardous cargo.

“I’m about 400 feet above East Palestine,” he told

The train derailment contaminated at least 15,000 pounds of soil and about 1.1 million gallons of water, Norfolk Southern says.

Since the train derailment occurred, Baker has been searching for a testing facility to test his milk because his customers are concerned about its safety.

“I’m getting calls asking about the (testing) data I’m getting and if it’s safe to drink my milk,” he said. “I feel confident saying I’m sure it’s safe, but I have to find a lab to get the real true answers.

The groundwater is Baker’s biggest concern.

Even though the bottom of his well is still “well above” any surface water in East Palestine.  

“It’s still a moving particle and you just don’t know where it’s going to get. “I’ve never seen water flow uphill, but I want to be 100 percent sure my milk is safe.”

Norfolk Southern has offered to test his milk, but Baker would have to bring his milk to the organization, Baker said.

“I’m not going to do that,” he said. “It’s disappointing that they wouldn’t come to my farm and test it here.”

The state ag department is also supporting farmers with testing.

But that plan is starting from ground zero and working its way out.

And with Baker’s distance from the site, he’s unsure when, or if, his farm would be tested.

“It could be almost a month before I hear from them,” he said. “Or maybe they don’t even get here. Maybe by that point they don’t find enough residue to come to my farm. I’m trying to stay ahead of all that and do something on my own.”

Baker attended a meeting on March 9 with farmers in the community and representatives from the Ohio Department of Agriculture, including Director Brian Baldridge.

People from the Environmental Protection Agency were also in attendance.

The state reps provided updates about the situation.

“They listened to what us farmers had to say and told us about funding that could be coming our way,” Baker said. “They didn’t give a number but it’s good to know they’re willing to help us out.”

Area soil and water testing began on March 9. And about 300 areas will be tested for multiple toxins.

And State Veterinarian Dr. Dennis Summers told attendees that between Ohio and Pennsylvania, there have been no reports of livestock illness and nothing has compromised food safety.

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