Key Environmental Issues


As a regulatory agency, the WVDEP navigates many issues that can potentially impact both the state's environment and its citizens. We strive to provide the public with the most complete and up-to-date information possible. Here, you can learn more about new and developing environmental issues and the steps the WVDEP is taking to address them.

East Palestine, OH Train Derailment Information

At the direction of Governor Jim Justice, the WVDEP, the West Virginia Emergency Management Division (WVEMD) and the state Department of Health and Human Resources (WVDHHR) are continuously monitoring the situation for any impacts to West Virginia or its citizens.

The WVDEP has been coordinating with the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO), to continuously track a plume of butyl acrylate moving down the Ohio River and collect samples.

All monitoring results have been well below the provisional health guidance values issued by the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and no drinking water advisories have been issued or are in effect in West Virginia as a result of the train derailment. No vinyl chloride has been detected in the Ohio River.

Ethylene Oxide (EtO)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted a study of air toxic emissions across the United States using data from 2014. That data was compiled and released by the EPA in 2018 in a report called the National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA). The NATA was a broad overview of air emissions across the country – commonly referred to as a screening tool – and is designed to identify areas that may need further investigation.

The 2018 assessment based on 2014 data identified four census tracts in West Virginia, all of which are nearby EtO-emitting facilities in Institute and South Charleston.

The potentially elevated risk is not due to new emission sources or increased emissions from permit holders, but rather to the EPA's finding that long-term exposure to EtO may be more harmful than previously thought.

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that have been used in a variety of industries around the world since the 1940s. They include Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), which have been the most extensively produced and studied of these chemicals.

Both PFOA and PFOS have been shown to be persistent in the human body, and PFAS is estimated to be present in the blood of almost all U.S. residents.

PFAS have been used to make cookware, carpets, clothing, fabrics for furniture, paper packaging for food, and other materials that are resistant to water, grease, and stains. They are also used in firefighting foams and several industrial processes.

While drinking water is the primary pathway of exposure to PFAS, they can also be present in soil, air, food, and materials found in homes and workplaces.