Thousands of residents had to be evacuated. Residents were allowed to return to their homes on February 8 after railroad crews dumped a toxic chemical from five tank trucks and burned it.
Much is still unknown about the dangers the spilled toxins pose to residents, experts said. Many in the area have complained of headaches and irritated eyes, noting that chickens, fish and other wildlife have gone extinct. Despite this, state health officials have insisted to residents that East Palestine is a safe place.
The NTSB has not commented on the cause of the derailment. A federal investigation into the cause of the crash continues, as does environmental monitoring inside and outside of Ohio.
Railway union officials said they had warned such an accident could happen because cost-cutting at the railways was compromising safety measures. But Norfolk Southern said his record has “become more secure”.
Conaway said the company is working closely with him. “They messed up our city, they’re going to fix it,” Conway said.
Addressing citizens seated in bleachers, he spoke through a megaphone while pacing the gym floor.
“They just danced around the questions a lot,” says Danielle Deal, who lives a few kilometers from the derailment site.
Norfolk Southern officials did not attend the meeting and said they feared violence.
Deal called this reason a “copout,” noting the seriousness of the incident. Deal and her two children left home to stay with their mother, 20 km away, “and we could still see the mushroom cloud as clear as day”.
“After consulting with community leaders, we are increasingly concerned about the growing physical threat to our employees and community members related to this event, resulting from the increased likelihood of outsiders attending,” the company said in an emailed statement .
Erik Olson, senior strategic director for health and nutrition at the Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit group focused on the environment and public health, said the unknown dangers posed by the derailment far outweighed any assurances officials had would have given for security.
“This is clearly a very toxic concoction of chemicals,” Olson said. “And I haven’t seen any public accounting for how many pounds or gallons of those chemicals were released.”
The air and water tests conducted so far have seemed limited and “are not overly reassuring,” Olson said.
He said much more needs to be understood about how the soil and groundwater were polluted by this spill, which he says poses the greater longer-term hazard as opposed to air pollution.
Ohio state officials have said a pollution plume in the Ohio River was moving at about 1 mile per hour. But they say cities along the cloud’s path could shut off their drinking water intake when it floats past. They also said drinking water testing did not raise any concerns and normal water treatment would remove any small amounts of contaminants that may be present.
Gerald Poje, a toxicologist and former founding member of the Chemical Safety Board, an independent federal agency that investigates industrial chemical spills, said it could be months or years before the full extent of the damage is known.
“This is a terrible tragedy in Ohio, it is so painful to see so many lives being put at risk,” Poje said. “There is a long challenge ahead for everyone to identify risks that are unknown at this time.”
Poje and Olson said an underground plume of pollution could eventually contaminate drinking water and even irrigation wells that farmers could pump up and sprinkle on crops.
https://www.smh.com.au/world/north-america/angry-ohio-townspeople-seek-answers-on-trains-toxic-spill-20230216-p5cl6l.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_world Angry residents want answers over train derailments and chemical explosions