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EAST PALESTINE, OHIO — Residents of this small town near the Pennsylvania border are being assured the air and water are safe, even as they experience headaches, sore throats, and other worrisome symptoms in the wake of a train derailment, chemical spill and massive “controlled burn” of dangerous toxins.
Local and state authorities previously evacuated all residents within one mile of the Feb. 3 derailment and started the controlled burn of industrial chemicals on the vehicle to decrease the risk of an explosion, which could have sent shrapnel throughout the small town. Vinyl chloride, a carcinogen used to manufacture PVC, was emitted from five train cars last week in the form of massive plumes of dark smoke visible throughout eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania.
“The worst part about the wreck site was the horrible smell,” observed Carter Andrews, a producer with The Daily Wire. “The chemically, stinging odor was so strong my eyes started watering. It lingered all throughout town.”
Residents the team spoke to all reported similar symptoms. Despite multiple state and federal agencies insisting that the air and water supplies were not affected by the train derailment, residents and first responders have likewise noted a lingering smell in the air, an oily chemical sheen in local creeks and rivers, sudden deaths among wildlife and livestock, and worrisome health impacts such as sore throats and headaches.
DJ Yokley, a business owner in East Palestine interviewed by the team from The Daily Wire, noted that many of his neighbors depend upon their livestock for their incomes. “This is a farm town, and there’s a lot of people whose livelihood depends on those animals that they sell for whatever reason. And if they’re tainted in any way, they’re done,” he said. “We were living the American dream that we worked so hard for, and now we’re living the American nightmare.”
Residents have meanwhile struggled to garner answers from state and federal officials, as well as Norfolk Southern, the rail company at the center of the incident. Though citizens were promised a town hall meeting on Wednesday, officials changed the event to an informational session with representatives from various agencies. Executives from Norfolk Southern pulled out of the event hours before it was scheduled to start.
The Daily Wire team also observed cleanup work a half a mile away from the train wreck.
“Crews seemed to be using a hose to suck the chemical film off the top of the water flowing through,” Andrews described. “We asked several questions but they refused to even acknowledge us.”
Beyond the release of vinyl chloride, Norfolk Southern warned the EPA that a number of other dangerous chemicals were present at the derailment site. One train car containing ethylene glycol monobutyl ether currently has an “unknown status,” according to Norfolk Southern, while the amount of ethylhexyl acrylate in another car is still “pending.” The EPA issued the full list of substances present at the site only after residents were told they could return to their homes.
“We just want answers and they’re not giving them,” reported Yokley. “What’s frustrating is the EPA tells us one thing and then two hours later it’s something different.”
Carter Andrews reported from East Palestine; Ben Zeisloft reported from Philadelphia.