On Feb. 3 in East Palestine, Ohio, a train carrying hazardous materials exploded, sparking fears among residents of a potential environmental disaster and leaving them wondering about the possibility of returning home.
One of the Ohio town’s residents, Maura Todd, is questioning the repeated assurances from federal and local authorities that the air quality is safe and that the water supply is untainted.
“I’ve watched every news conference, and I haven’t heard anything that makes me think that this is a data-driven decision,” Todd told The Washington Post. “We don’t feel like we have a whole lot of information.”
At around 9 p.m. on Feb. 3, 50 cars of a 141-car Norfolk Southern train derailed in the Ohio town. The National Transportation Safety Board stated that the derailment caused no injuries and was most likely the result of mechanical problems with one of the rail car axles.
Nearly 48 hours after the accident, the situation took a concerning turn when changing conditions within one of the rail cars led authorities to warn of a potential “major explosion.” Officials then took quick action, conducting a controlled release of vinyl chloride; on Twitter images of a towering plume of hazardous chemicals were shown to be seen from miles away. On Wednesday, residents were told it was safe to return home.
When Newsmax spoke to Nick Drom, an independent manufacturing engineer, he said, “At this point, the only way that the vinyl chloride would be a major concern at this point though would be if a major amount spilled into a waterway or spilled into a sewer or spill into the ground and wasn’t burned.”
Conversely, according to Peter DeCarlo, an environmental health professor at Johns Hopkins University, “If there are still residual chemical emissions, then that still presents a danger for people in the area.”
One of East Palestine’s residents, Eric Whitining, who returned to his home after the evacuation order was lifted, told The Post that some nights the air smells like an “over-chlorinated swimming pool,” causing his eyes to burn.
“For a small town, we have to trust them, because what else do we have to do? We have to trust that they are not lying to us.”
Ohio and Pennsylvania residents have filed four lawsuits against Norfolk Southern, alleging that negligence by the railroad led to the derailment and exposure to toxic substances and fumes. The lawsuits seek money, medical monitoring, and more and claim that residents incurred costs due to the evacuation and suffered severe emotional distress and anxiety.
Norfolk Southern has set up a “family assistance center” and is reimbursing residents who have fled their homes, but a spokesman declined to say how many people have received help or for how long the assistance will continue.
On Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency sent a letter to general counsel for Norfolk Southern, detailing that in addition to vinyl chloride, other chemicals to be concerned about arebutyl acrylate, ethylhexyl acrylate, and ethylene glycol monobutyl ether.
Drom told Newsmax one of the other chemicals to be concerned about that was held in one of the cars is petroleum lube oil. He said that could be any number of things and could contain polytetrafluoroethylene, or PTFE, which could be envriomentally hazardous if it leaches into groundwater.
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