Ohio: East Palestine citizens concerned about toxic spill from train derailment

Authorities continue to test drinking water and air quality. Residents have already returned home.

On February 3, a train carrying toxic substances from Madison (Illinois) to Conway (Pennsylvania) derailed in East Palestine, (Ohio) causing a loud explosion. The nearly 5,000 residents of the town had to be evacuated due to the fire and the dense black smoke. The chemical cargo was made up of phosgene, a gas that served as a chemical weapon during World War I, and hydrogen chloride. There were no fatalities or injuries.

The consequences in East Palestine are disastrous. Residents were able to return to their homes but, upon arrival, found dead fish in the streams and lifeless chickens on the farms. In addition, the smell of toxic fumes lingered in the air. Exposure to these chemicals can cause diseases such as cancer or cardiopulmonary infections.

Testing drinking water

Drinking water also has to be monitored, as citizens believe that the large number of dead animals is due to contaminated water. Despite this, environmental regulators and authorities insist that air quality is good and there is no risk to the water. Trent Conaway, mayor of East Palestine, said in an interview on WFMJ television:

It’s concerning to me, but the citizens also have to be aware. We have a closed water system. So the water system in the actual village of East Palestine is 100% safe. We’re getting the same numbers from two Thursdays ago before the accident it’s the same numbers. Our well field is way west of where the accident is and the creek where the water goes down.

West Virginia American Water, which supplies water in West Virginia, just east of Ohio, said Sunday that it was upgrading its water treatment process as a precautionary measure.

Not a word from Buttigieg

On February 6, vinyl chloride was burned inside the train to release the toxic spills into the air and dispose of them. This procedure produced black smoke which covered a large area where the derailment occurred. Residents in East Palestine are concerned by the smoke which has been lingering since then.

So far, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has made no mention of the derailment, which is drawing widespread criticism from the Republican Party for his lack of action on the matter.