Does 10% of the US population live in the Ohio River Basin?


Ten percent of the US population lives in the Ohio River Basin, where the East Palestine train derailment and chemical spill took place.




The implication associated with online posts in February 2023 that a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, therefore poisoned the entire Ohio Basin drinking water supply, is not supported.

In the wake of the train derailment in eastern Palestine, Ohio, which released a fiery cloud of toxic chemicals on February 6, 2023, multiple Twitter accounts — often this associated with conspiracy theories – reminded her followers that 10% of the entire US population lives in the watershed – the Ohio River Basin – where the derailment took place.

From a trivial point of view, the fact about the proportion of the population living within the boundaries of this basin is true. As described from the US Army Corps of Engineers:

The Ohio River Basin covers 204,000 square miles and includes portions of 15 states. It is home to over 25 million people, which is 10% of the United States population. The Ohio River alone is 981 miles long, running from the confluence of the Allegheny River and Monongahela River in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and ending in Cairo, Illinois. Along the way, the Ohio River supplies several million people with drinking water.

The implication However, there is no evidence to support that the entire basin will be without drinking water due to the release of chemicals. While there are likely to be long-term health concerns associated with the release of these chemicals into the soil, the immediate extent of the contamination of Ohio River drinking water is Unknown.

Water in the immediate area of ​​the derailment appears to have killed thousands of fish, but experts say many of the chemicals associated with the derailment are rapidly degrading and/or can be removed by water treatment plants. As reported from Louisville’s WLKY serving a region downstream of the accident:

Chris Bobay, a water quality manager at Louisville Water, said all of the affected water bodies are still in West Virginia. He said they’ve been working with their upstream partners to monitor it closely en route to Louisville, but there’s still “a long way to go.”

Bobay said the network is detecting low levels of chemicals, well below CDC health guidelines, and the main concern would be just a change in the “taste and smell” of the water.

Luckily, butyl acrylate is “not nasty” in this regard and would probably make the water a little floral or fruity.

However, he said they had a plan to remove all odors. He said it’s slightly oxidized.

He also said the chemical is broken down as it travels downstream.

“Our best friend is the river itself, it’s quite a thriving ecosystem and it’s dealing with its own problem, which is good that we’re this far downstream,” Bobay said.

However, since reliable sources confirm that approximately 10% of the US population resides in the Ohio River Basin, this basic claim is “true.”


“Is the Ohio River contaminated? Train derailment in East Palestine raises water concerns.” The Columbus Dispatch, accessed 14 February 2023.

“Is the Water Safe? Louisville Water Monitoring Ohio River After Train Derailment.” WLKY, 02/13/2023,

King, Chris. “Chemical spill from train in East Palestine, Ohio could leave 30 million US citizens without drinking water.” Euro Weekly News, 02/14/2023,

Ohio River Basin Plan 2020 – 2025 (Planning Aid for the State Study). Army Corps Of Engineers,

summer, will “MAGA’s New Shock Jock is a bounty hunter with a turbulent past.” The Daily Beast, November 5, 2021., Does 10% of the US population live in the Ohio River Basin?

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