EPA Steps in as Ohio Residents Report Health Problems from Catastrophic, Toxic Train Derailment
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More than two weeks after a train carrying hazardous materials – including the toxic chemical vinyl chloride – derailed in the small village of East Palestine, Ohio, the Environmental Protection Agency is stepping in and ordering the railroad to take responsibility.
"Norfolk Southern will pay for cleaning up the mess that they created and the trauma they inflicted on this community," said EPA Administrator Michael Regan.
The wreckage burned for days and residents were ordered to evacuate their homes. Now, they're reporting health problems including, skin, eye, and throat irritation.
Eleven-year-old Zack who lives not far from where the train derailed said, "Our face has been burning and it's really bad, the headaches, massive, almost passing out."
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A local church has been turned into a health clinic where people can be seen by nurses and a toxicologist.
Residents are also concerned about the drinking water. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and a top EPA official went house to house to reassure citizens.
"So, it's safe to drink?" one lady asked. After swallowing a sip, Governor Dewine said, "Yes, it's safe."
Some local farmers worry about how the toxic plume of smoke from the controlled burn of chemicals might affect their crops. "I'm concerned for what could be the toxicity of my soil and does that indicate how we can plant this spring," said farmer Jan Douglas.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says he'll visit the town and announced new measures to protect against more train derailments.
"We are pushing a three-part drive on rail safety: Things that we're doing at the Department of Transportation to raise the bar, things that we need help from Congress to do in order to hold rail companies accountable," said Buttigieg.
Norfolk Southern says 4,500 cubic yards of contaminated soil and 1.5 million gallons of contaminated water have been removed from the site.
The company is vowing to do whatever it takes to make things right with the community – including putting one million dollars in a recovery fund for residents.
Former President Donald Trump plans to visit the Ohio town on Wednesday, and celebrity environmental advocate Erin Brokovich will host a town hall meeting this Friday as residents there continue to recover.
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