In the wake of a devastating train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, locals are deeply concerned about the short- and long-term impact of exposure to toxic chemicals that were leaked during the crash and subsequently burned by officials.
Although Norfolk Southern Railway had begun shipping some of the contaminated waste away from the area, individuals in the regions where the material arrived began to express similar concerns about their safety.
As a result, the Environmental Protection Agency enacted a temporary pause in the shipment of waste from the derailment site to facilities elsewhere across the country.
“We know it’s far better to have it safely stored in a properly constructed and monitored disposal facility than to have it remain here any longer than necessary when there are licensed, regulated disposal facilities available that routinely dispose of similar waste,” acknowledged EPA Regional Administrator Debra Shore. “At the same time, I know there are folks in other states with concerns — legitimate concerns – about how this waste is being transported and how it is being disposed of.”
The agency reportedly told Norfolk Southern to call off any future transportation of the toxic waste “until federal officials could review the routes and disposal facilities.”
Given the fact that the EPA acknowledged concerns about waste being stored in appropriate facilities are “legitimate,” residents in East Palestine seemingly have even more reason to question the claims that they face no significant health risks based on their exposure to the toxic leak.
State and federal officials, including EPA Administrator Michael Regan, agreed to drink tap water from East Palestine in an effort to ease anxiety about contamination.
Nevertheless, anecdotes from across the region point to mystery illnesses and dead wildlife as possibly related to the environmental disaster.
“People are getting sick from something, so you can’t say the air and the water are OK because they obviously are not,” advised former EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck.
She went on to call the agency out for failing to take the proper action in response to the leak.
“These federal agencies know what to do, and they’re not doing everything they need to do to serve the people,” she said, noting that locals should have been told to stay away from the area for longer than they were.
Enck added: “People came home, they had soot on their cars, on their garage doors, on their houses, and they likely began cleaning up on their own. That was a mistake.”