Residents living near the site of the East Palestine train derailment are blasting the Biden Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for their response to the crisis.
Local and federal officials have insisted tests show the air and water supply is safe to breathe and drink following the Feb. 3 incident — where authorities burned tons of hazardous chemicals to prevent an explosion — but many residents are reporting negative effects to their health and remain skeptical.
“The sentiment from the residents seems to be they’re super annoyed at how the federal government, how the Biden administration in particular is handling the situation,” said video journalist Nick Sortor.
The main chemical burned was vinyl chloride, an ingredient used to produce plastics and PVC, which has been shown to cause cancer at high levels of exposure.
“The EPA in particular won’t talk to any of the residents. You have people that are right up there [next to the crash site]. I spoke with a small business owner — their business was right in front of where the explosion was. They can’t get anything out of the EPA,” he added to Tucker Carlson.
Concerns are growing among residents that the town their town of about 5,000 will be abandoned by the federal government, Sortor said.
Environmentalist and consumer advocate Erin Brockovich called for action, writing: “The Biden Administration needs to get more involved in this train derailment now. We are counting on you to break the chain of administration after administration to turn a blind eye,” she wrote on Twitter.
Biden has yet to address the derailment, but after being called out on both sides of the aisle for his inaction, Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg Tweeted: “I continue to be concerned about the impacts of the Feb 3 train derailment … and the effects on families.”
The EPA said it has screened 459 homes and 21 drinking water wells and that it was monitoring air quality 24 hours a day. Norfolk Southern has also been providing the town with bottled water.
Evacuation orders were lifted Feb. 8 and residents returned home but since that time people have reported feeling a burning sensation in their eyes, animals falling sick and a strong chemical odor looming over the town.
Nathan Izotic said on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” it smells of burning plastic at he and wife Kelly’s home, about two miles from where the incident took place.
“As soon as we got [to] the Ohio line, we immediately smelled the chemicals yet again. And since then, I now have the chemical burns and reaction rash on my face, and my throat is getting irritated again and I’m feeling very uneasy. Very uneasy,” he said.
Glenn Fulton, who grew up in East Palestine and now works about three and a half miles away in Unity Township, says he has started to notice he feels different when stepping outside.
“I can start feeling something in my throat and I have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and just health issues in general. I’m diabetic, I’ve got a pacemaker and I live in Columbiana, but I’m from East Palestine. I can notice a major, major difference in my breathing when I get down here,” Fulton told WKBN.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine seemed to sympathize with residents’ concerns over possible health issues and hesitancy to return to normalcy.
“If I lived in the community I’d be angry too,” DeWine said during a news conference Tuesday, according to the Ohio Capital Journal.
“Norfolk Southern is responsible for this problem,” DeWine said. “We fully expect them to live up to what the CEO committed to me, and that is that they will pay for it.”
“If they don’t,” he added “we’ve got an Attorney General.”
DeWine added on Wednesday the Ohio EPA said there was “no detection of contaminants in East Palestine’s municipal water system,” and it was safe to drink.
The Norfolk Southern train had about 20 cars carrying hazardous materials, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. Half of those cars derailed, including five that contained vinyl chloride, a carcinogen that becomes a deadly gas at room temperature.
Additional chemicals being transported on the train were released into the air, soil and water supply after the fiery crash, including ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate and isobutylene.
The chemicals pose various health risks including forms of cancer — but usually only if a person were exposed to a very concentrated level or on a long term basis.