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Frustration Still Abounds in East Palestine
People Are Still Complaining About Health Issues & We Need To Keep Listening & Learning
While media attention has faded for the small village in northeastern Columbiana County, Ohio just three month since a toxic train derailment, residents are still dealing with the aftermath. We need to keep talking about it.
I was on NewsNation late last week to discuss the serious lack of transparency.
“I think it's shameful how our agencies have handled a train derailment and almost left this community, their children, their future and their health, left to dry,” I told anchor Elizabeth Vargas.
It breaks my heart to learn that one of the trains that derailed carried a Dow product, which the company has now confirmed.
Even before this toxic spill, Dow Chemical company, and its subsidiary Union Carbide, were already the biggest single contributor to hot spots of toxic air pollution in the entire country, according to a 2021 report from ProPublica.
That same research revealed that more than 70 million Americans (one fifth of the population) are being exposed to levels of toxic air pollution that result in a cancer risk. It’s a mess for EP residents and everyone else who are exposed to these pollutants.
The chemical, called ethylhexyl acrylate, is used as a raw material in the production of adhesives, coatings, construction materials, printing inks and plastics. It was one of five toxic chemicals that were released into the area along with vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate, isobutylene, and ethylene glycol.
Those chemicals were set ablaze in a chemical fire, and they spilled into a ditch that feeds Sulphur Run, a stream that joins Leslie Run, which eventually empties into the Ohio River.
Folks are still showing video of those waterways and they don’t look clean to me! Plus, here’s a photo of a resident filling up her bathtub, who has been told her water is “safe for consumption.” Gross!
Ethylhexyl acrylate and ethylene glycol can cause irritation of the skin and eyes, as well as sore throat and nausea with exposure at high concentrations, according to the National Library of Medicine. All these symptoms are ones that East Palestine residents have reported and are still reporting.
Yet somehow the area was deemed “safe,” while cleanup continues.
Norfolk Southern is working with regulatory agencies on their investigations into the derailment and continues its efforts to remove chemicals from the site of the derailment.
“We continue to work daily cleaning the site and surrounding community,” Norfolk Southern Senior Communications Manager Connor Spielmaker told the Daily News on April 27. “We recently hit a milestone of completing excavation efforts for track one, and expect the work under track two to be complete in June. Most importantly, we will be there for as long as it takes.”
Testing Doesn’t Lie
We also have learned that dozens of residents have urine samples testing positive for vinyl chloride and benzene. You can watch resident Shelby Walker, who lives only 900 feet from the disaster, discuss her concerns surrounding her health here.
Long-term exposure to high levels of benzene in the air can cause leukemia. But at this point, doctors don’t have protocols for how to get these chemicals out of her system.
Vinyl chloride contaminates many communities in the U.S. due to pollution from plastics manufacturing plants, according to a new report.
It’s used to make plastic, polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, and is classified by the U.S. EPA as a carcinogen, and has been linked to higher rates of lung and liver cancer, as well as liver disease, neurological problems and miscarriage.
So many people that live in the area are still reeling from this toxic disaster. Our friends at Status Coup News spoke with local Krissy Ferguson about the situation on the ground. Her urine has also tested positive for vinyl chloride.
My best advice to locals in East Palestine is to continue to stay community strong. If you haven’t already, consider joining the Facebook group, United for East Palestine (OHIO).
This group has more than 8,000 members and was created to bring together resources available to those impacted by the train derailment, as many families were forced to leave their homes.
The other thing I want to continue to remind folks living there is to keep a detailed journal that describes your physical and emotional condition, including any symptoms.
As expected after a traumatic event, stress levels remain high in East Palestine.
Marcy Patton leads the Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board, which has been providing crisis counseling and mental health support since the derailment.
She told local station WVXU, “We’re seeing symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder: people may have trouble sleeping, people may have problems with their appetite, panic attacks.”
Her organization started a stress management class and a community support group to fill a gap in resources. These meetings are open to the public and are offered free of charge. Learn more here.
Legal Work Continues
Litigation is moving forward but the legal world moves incredibly slow. We have not gone away, the work continues but this part is done in offices and doesn’t get much coverage.
For those wondering about deadlines related to the litigation, yes there is a deadline for when you can file a lawsuit for damages you suffer as the result of the action of others. This is called a “statute of limitations.”
In Ohio, the statute of limitations on property damage and personal injury claims is two years from the date of the accident. So, if you decide you want to sue Norfolk Southern for the damages it caused, you would need to do so by February 2, 2025.
You can learn more here.
Community Event This Week
On Thursday, May 11, The Way Station and First United Presbyterian Church will host an informational session with Ohio EPA about surface water, including creeks and municipal water, assessments, and sampling. The session runs from 6 to 7 p.m. at the First United Presbyterian Church at 109 West Rebecca Street in East Palestine. Please contact EPA’s Information Line at 866-361-0526 with questions.
We continue to keep spotlight on the people of East Palestine. Let us know your thoughts and questions below!