Ohio residents plead for help and answers weeks after train derailment
▶ Watch Video: EPA chief visits Ohio train derailment site amid health concerns among residents
Residents of East Palestine, Ohio, are pleading for help and answers two weeks after a train operated by Norfolk Southern derailed and released toxic chemicals. Many are concerned about their long-term health, and for some, the frustration is reaching a breaking point.
“This is disaster, nightmare, something you watch on TV,” said Tracey Hoffman, who lives two-tenths of a mile from where the train derailed.
Hoffman is not drinking water from her tap — fearing it is contaminated —.and has joined one of several class-action lawsuits against Norfolk Southern.
“It’s been, ‘Don’t ask questions,'” Hoffman said.
The derailment occurred on Feb. 3, after at least one earlier breakdown. Thirty-eight of the train’s cars derailed, and a fire affected 12 others. Several cars were carrying chemicals, including vinyl chloride. Crews carried out a controlled release of chemicals into the air after several cars were in danger of exploding, sending up a plume of black smoke.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the air in the village is back to pre-accident levels, and state officials said earlier this week the municipal water is “safe to drink.” EPA chief Michael Regan tried to reassure skeptical residents of their safety on a visit to East Palestine Thursday, and said, “We are absolutely going to hold Norfolk Southern accountable.”
Norfolk Southern has said that it will remain in the East Palestine area “to help make things right.” While representatives of the company did not attend a town hall for residents on Tuesday night, drawing ire, the company said in a statement Wednesday it will help East Palestine recover.
“We are here and will stay here for as long as it takes to ensure your safety and to help East Palestine recover and thrive,” said CEO Alan Shaw.
“I know there are still a lot of questions without answers,” he said. “I know you’re tired. I know you’re worried. We will not let you down.”
Norfolk Southern has continued to pledge it will pay for the cleanup, and has been cutting $1,000 “inconvenience checks” for residents. But for some, like Michael and Cassidy Bailes, who live just outside the evacuation zone, that money isn’t enough.
“We walked in our house and everything literally started burning. Our throats, our noses,” said Cassidy Bailes.
Michael Bailes said he is “pretty worried” about his family’s health and would move away if he had the money to do so.
Norfolk Southern’s problems are growing. Another one of the company’s trains derailed on Thursday just outside of Detroit. Authorities say one of the train cars was carrying a hazardous material, liquid chlorine. They said that car was not overturned and there were no leaks or spills.