A message from our Co-Owner regarding the E.P. train derailment

Murry Gunty
6 min readFeb 18, 2023

February 17, 2023

To: Youngstown Phantoms Nation

Everyone by now is well-aware of the catastrophe that occurred in East Palestine, OH on February 3, 2023 as well as the ongoing issues related to the toxic chemical release and the subsequent handling of those chemicals including their burning.

As an owner of a junior hockey team, our first concern is always the health and safety of our players. But we also have an extended local community, including player families, billets, season ticket holders, sponsors, employees and fans. As a result, we have been monitoring, as best we can, the activity and the fallout from this horrible situation throughout the overall region. We have players (and billets) as close as 12 miles from the site of the derailment. Fortunately, for now, that suburb of North Lima, OH is not considered part of the hot zone.

East Palestine is located in northeastern Columbiana County, Ohio, a few short miles from Mahoning County, where Youngstown is located. I am blessed to be Co-Owner of the Phantoms with Bruce Zoldan and Phantom Fireworks. The resources they are able to bring to bear in a situation like this are extraordinary. Through their connections, today I spoke with a senior Mahoning County authority who had the ability to connect with people in the highest level of the County Health Department. I wanted to share the feedback with everyone.

  1. Agencies: The United States and Ohio State EPA(s) have both been on site since the derailment and were part of the planning of the burning of the toxic chemicals. It was described to me that all relevant agencies are on site in a manner similar to the response to the “Ground Zero 9/11 fall-out” and are involved in planning, testing, and operations. Norfolk Southern also has consultants on site. There appears to be no end date, as of now, for the on-site agencies to leave East Palestine. The EPA has multiple hotlines set up regarding this tragedy as well as a dedicated web site with information published almost daily as of now. The Ohio Emergency Management Agency has a web site as well.

2. Testing: There are at least three (that I know of) items they are testing.

a. Air: They appear to be testing the air quality as far north as Trumbull County (the county north of Mahoning) and into Pennsylvania.

b. Surface water (creeks, streams, etc. aboveground): Surface water appears to flow south while Youngstown is North and West of East Palestine — they are testing surface water in and around East Palestine with a focus on locations south of the site. 1 The government is currently paying for ground water testing (among other things) for people who own property in the hot zone.

c. Ground water: Most of the area uses well water vs. city water, so testing of ground water is a very high priority. According to the EPA web site they have tested well water from 28 different wells as of today. At this time, all of the above test results have not risen to levels of concern. I am not a technical (or any other kind of) expert on environmental issues, but I do know that there are quantifiable limits for most things the EPA tests so the logical conclusion is that, as of now, the test results do not exceed these mandated limits. If test results exceed those limits, I would expect it would make national news and there likely would be a new course of action. Until they reach these “alert levels” it appears that there is nothing more to be done.

3. Rink(s) water source: The source for the water in the ice for both the Covelli Center and the Deep Freeze practice facility appears to come from an aquifer in Trumbull County, well north of East Palestine. You can find more information at this link for ground water and Ohio aquifers. Below is also a map showing ground water resources in the area with the arrow pointing to the yellow aquifer in Trumbull County. As the Phantom players are frequently exposed to the water on the ice we wanted to confirm if this was something to be worried about, and we were assured in this conversation that the water source is well away from the derailment site and ground water, again, supposedly flows south.

Groundwater Resources in Ohio

4. Dying livestock: There is a lot of coverage on TV and on social media about dying livestock and farm animals, including 5 chickens in North Lima. According to Dr. Dennis Summers, Chief Vet in the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Division of Animal Health (who I spoke with personally) as well as the Columbiana County Emergency Management Agency (who I also spoke with), large animals like cattle are not dying, though there have been chickens and fish that have died. As of this week, according to an article quoting the Executive Director of the Columbiana Humane Society, the number appears to be about 20 small animals. Dr. Summers confirmed that the test results for the air and water have either failed to detect any harmful elements, or to the extent such elements existed, they were below safety thresholds for human health. Dr. Summers further stated that the only direct reporting of animal deaths were 3,500 fish that were directly in the water where the spill occurred. That water has subsequently been diverted with no continued material presence of the chemicals and the water has been repopulated with fish with no reported issues. In addition to the fish, there were reports of irritation in animals when they first ignited the tanker as some of the plume ash caused some respiratory and ear irritation in pets local to East Palestine. According to Dr. Summers, birds have respiratory systems that are far more sensitive than humans. In his opinion, if there was a meaningful issue in North Lima, then the more likely scenario would be far reaching bird deaths, not just 5 chickens (neighboring chickens and other birds or small animals for example would be dying as well). To date no chickens (or any other animals) have been sent to his or any other labs and he has been in touch with multiple vets in the area and it is his belief that the animal deaths are either exaggerated and/or unrelated to the spill. The widely reported fox death he believes is unrelated to fallout from the accident, though the fox’ migratory activity could have caused the death and that was likely from the presence of the accident. He believes that the vets know to report suspicious activity to him and he has received no such calls. Dr. Summers confirmed that he has not seen anything that would suggest increased risk to animals or convincing evidence that there have been after-effects on animals. Moreover, he has seen no threat to the food safety system. Finally, I spoke with Haley Shoemaker, the Program Coordinator for the Ohio Farm Business Program at Ohio State who had a similar analysis to Dr. Summers.

Obviously, I am no health expert, and we cannot provide any guaranties in this situation. Moreover, the situation could change quickly and without adequate warning. I urge you to contact your local health departments if you want more information or to contact directly the Ohio EPA, the Ohio department of Agriculture, the Mahoning County Health Department or any of the contacts listed on the EPA website link above. And of course, you are all welcome to call me directly — we are here as a resource for all of you.


Murry N. Gunty

Co-Owner, Youngstown Phantoms



Murry Gunty

Murry Gunty is the founder and CEO of Black Bear Sports Group, Inc.