East Palestine, Ohio residents have been coping with the aftermath of a toxic train wreck that contaminated soil and filled the air with black smoke. Residents in Ohio are now reporting a growing number of health issues such as nausea and trouble breathing.
Ohio has announced that they will be opening a health clinic this week for residents who are worried that their sickness may be related to the derailment of the Norfolk Southern freight train which released the toxic chemical vinyl chloride into the air.
At the request of Ohio’s Governor Mike DeWine, medical teams from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Department of Health will be on the ground helping citizens this week. The community impacted has around 5,000 residents, and the health teams will help assess any remaining dangers within the community.
The US Environmental Protection Agency has not detected any dangerous levels of contaminants so far in more than 530 homes which have endured air quality tests, according to reports from CNN.
EPA official Tiffani Kavalec told CNN last week that no vinyl chloride has been detected in any downgradient waterways near the train derailment.
US Senator Sherrod Brown stated, however, that “residents are right to be skeptical. We think the water’s safe, but when you return to your home, you should be tested again for your water and your soil and your air, not to mention those that have their own wells.”
Some waterways in the areas have been contaminated, with reports of thousands of fish dying, however, officials stated that the contaminates have all likely been contained.
Hundreds of residents in East Palestine have been attending town hall meetings to voice their concerns and demand answers regarding how safe they truly are. The Ohio Department of Health is opening their clinic on Tuesday as a means of helping residents recover, and have their minds eased.
“I heard you, the state heard you, and now the Ohio Department of Health and many of our partner agencies are providing this clinic, where people can come and discuss these vital issues with medical providers,” said the department’s director, Dr. Bruce Vanderhof.
According to the US EPA and CDC, “vinyl chloride, a man-made substance used to make PVC, can cause dizziness, sleepiness, and headaches and has been linked to an increased risk of cancer in the liver, brain, lungs, and blood. The burning of vinyl chloride gas could break down into compounds including hydrogen chloride and phosgene, a chemical weapon used during World War 1 as a choking agent.”
“Norfolk Southern is scrapping and removing rail cars at the derailment location, excavating contaminated areas, removing contaminated liquids from affected storm drains, and staging recovered waste for transportation to an approved disposal facility. Air monitoring and sampling will continue until removal of heavily contaminated soil in the derailment area is complete and odors subside in the community,” the EPA said Sunday.
“The people of East Palestine cannot be forgotten, nor can their pain be simply considered the cost of doing business,” US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg wrote to the railway’s chief executive, Alan Shaw.
“You have previously indicated to me that you are committed to meeting your responsibilities to this community, but it is clear that area residents are not satisfied with the information, presence, and support they are getting from Norfolk Southern in the aftermath and recovery,” Buttigieg added.
The CEO of Norfolk Southern posted a letter to East Palestine residents on Saturday:
“I hear you, we are here and will stay here for as long as it takes to ensure your safety and to help East Palestine recover and thrive. Together with local health officials, we have implemented a comprehensive testing program to ensure the safety of East Palestine’s water, air, and soil. [We] also started a $1 million fund “as a down payment on our commitment to help rebuild.”
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at email@example.com.