Water Testing Group Die in Plane Crash on Way to Ohio

Five environmental consultants, who were travelling to East Palestine, Ohio to provide assistance with the environmental aftermath of a mysterious explosion at a local metal plant earlier this week, were killed in a tragic plane crash in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The twin-engine Beech BE20 that they had been travelling on crashed shortly after departing Little Rock's Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport into a densely wooded area. All five people on board were reported to be employees of the Little Rock-based consulting firm CTEH.

While the initial reports suggest that the group was on their way to test water samples for a local environmental organization, there are some who suspect foul play. The circumstances surrounding the crash raise more questions than answers.

CTEH is an environmental consulting company that specializes in helping companies, governments, and communities prepare for, respond to, and recover from threats to their environment and people. Prior to their assignment in Ohio resulting from this week's plant explosion, CTEH had been contracted by Norfolk Southern to test water and soil contamination around East Palestine.

In addition to providing support related to this week's plant explosion in Ohio, Mother Jones reported back in 2019 that CTEH had previously been hired for other major projects related to air and water quality monitoring as well as workers' chemical exposure in the wake of both the BP Spill of 2020 and Hurricane Katrina's crude oil spill of 2005.

Mother Jones reported,

A crude oil spill during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. A coal ash spill in Tennessee in 2008. The BP oil spill in 2010. In all three cases, the companies responsible for these environmental calamities turned to the same Arkansas-based consulting firm, the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health, to monitor air and water quality and workers’ chemical exposure.

And each time, CTEH was later accused of mishandling data collection. And companies used CTEH’s findings to reassure people that the spilled chemicals posed little risk to public health.


In 2008, the Tennessee Valley Authority hired the consulting firm after coal ash from its Kingston Fossil plant in Roane County, Tennessee, spilled into the Emory River. A 2010 EPA audit, without naming contractors TVA hired to conduct air monitoring, later found that the methods used to survey air quality “failed to meet quality assurance standards.” CTEH says that the findings have been “falsely attributed” to the company and that it worked with TVA only on a “short-term, emergency contract.”

Two years later, BP hired the company to serve as the primary monitor for its offshore workers, collecting health and chemical exposure data in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon spill. Two lawmakers urged BP to stop working with CTEH, a company that they said had “a long history of questionable practices” and “of releasing findings defending the corporate interests that employ them.”

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