Ohio Train Derailment: Residents Aren’t Buying Officials’ Insistence that East Palestine is Safe

Federal and Ohio officials insist that the town of East Palestine is safe for residents to return to their homes after the burning of chemicals after a train derailment. However, many residents aren’t buying it and believe there are remaining health hazards.

A Norfolk Southern train with 50 railway cars derailed in East Palestine on February 3. Ten of the cars were carrying vinyl chloride. The derailment sent hazardous chemicals spilling onto the ground and a massive plume of smoke into the air.

A controlled chemical release was performed to avoid risking an explosion. Before officials conducted the controlled release, residents were evacuated but have since been permitted to return.

According to Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, “First of all, I think, look, I think that I would be drinking the bottled water, and I would be continuing to find out what the tests were showing as far as the air. I would be alert and concerned, but I think I would probably be back in my house.”

Director of the Ohio Department of Health, Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, said residents should feel safe and cited recent water and air testing.

“Look, we have got very good data as it relates to the air quality, and I think people can feel very confident in that fact, coupled with the fact that there continues to be air monitoring. So that’s very good. We have no indication that the municipal water supply is not safe. However, we do have testing that is pending, and I think it’s a relative easy thing to do to use bottled water for a short period of time. I think people should be confident that multiple agencies, both at the state and national level, are very serious about this, are watching very closely, and are allowing any wiggle room when it comes to safety,” said Vanderhoff.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency conducted testing and “show no detection of contaminants in raw water from the five wells that feed into East Palestine’s municipal water system,” stated a press release issued Wednesday. “With these test results, Ohio EPA is confident that the municipal water is safe to drink.”

EPA maintains no health concerns detected

The United States Environmental Protection Agency said it hadn’t detected any health concerns about the air in the area.

“Since the initial derailment, EPA has led robust air-quality testing (including with the state-of-the-art ASPECT plane) in and around East Palestine,” said EPA Great Lakes in a tweet. “At this time, our air monitoring has not detected any levels of health concern that can be attributed to the incident.”

“Today, we hoped to join local, state, and federal officials at a town hall to update the East Palestine community on the steps we are taking to thoroughly, responsibly, and safely clean up the accident site and to provide the latest results from ongoing water and air testing,” said the spokesperson.

“At the same time, we know that many are rightfully angry and frustrated right now. Unfortunately, after consulting with community leaders, we have become increasingly concerned about the growing physical threat to our employees and members of the community around this event stemming from the increasing likelihood of the participation of outside parties. With that in mind, Norfolk Southern will not be in attendance this evening,” continued the spokesperson.