Eastern Palestine was “HG Wells War of the Worlds stuff”

“My house is about 200 feet from the Norfolk Southern rail line, which is about 1,800 feet from the actual point of derailment,” said Lonnie Miller, a resident of East Palestine, Ohio, who testified in a hearing in Pennsylvania. “On Friday, February 3 at around 8:55 (am), our lives became a living nightmare.”

Describing the flames and clouds of smoke coming from the derailment site, Miller said, “It was a scene from a disaster movie you don’t want to live in.”

Miller told lawmakers that many residents of eastern Palestine lived paycheck to paycheck, which made it difficult when the governors of Ohio and Pennsylvania asked residents of a radius of one mile by two miles to evacuate.

Across the border in Pennsylvania, residents of Darlington, about seven miles east of Palestine, shared similar concerns about their health and the future of their community with the Senate committee, where they expressed their concerns. concerns about air quality, water contamination – and a decline in the value of their properties.

Ron Fodo of the Ohio EPA looks for signs of fish while churning up the water in Leslie Run Creek. Photo credit: Michael Swensen/Getty Images

Jonathan Kent described the scene following the derailment as “HG Wells War of the Worlds stuff”, with helicopters, law enforcement and local leaders flooding the area. Another Darlington resident, Amanda Kemmer, said she kept her children at home and chose not to evacuate – a decision she later regretted.

Speaking about the release of chemicals, Kemmer told the committee: “You just saw this big black cloud, this big threatening cloud coming out of eastern Palestine and it came towards us and over our house. until the whole sky is black.

“At the end of the night, everyone had a headache, didn’t feel well and had a stomach ache,” Kemmer said, fighting back tears. “At that moment I knew I had made the wrong decision to stay.”

Other residents who attended the hearing reported a myriad of health issues in the days following the accident, including headaches, a dry cough, a lingering chemical smell inside their noses, skin rashes and sinus congestion, among other symptoms.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, short-term exposure to vinyl chloride in the air can cause dizziness, drowsiness, headache, and eye and respiratory tract irritation. It is also known to cause liver damage and may increase the risk of a rare form of liver cancer, according to the EPA.

The agency has ordered Norfolk Southern to pay for cleanup and decontamination efforts, and if the company fails to comply with the work outlined in the order, it could be forced to pay treble damages to the EPA. .

You can be assured that Pennsylvania will hold Norfolk Southern accountable for all impacts on our Commonwealth.

– Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro

Soil contamination near the derailment site exists, as well as some water sources in the area, according to the EPA. And although the EPA has assured residents of the region that air quality in the eastern Palestine region “remains normal according to air monitoring data”, the health risks associated with the release vinyl chloride and the resulting potential water contamination are always of concern. , said Myron Arnowitt, Pennsylvania State Director for Clean Water Action.

“I don’t really know in what language you can call it a controlled release, because it was very uncontrolled,” Arnowitt said in an interview. “We don’t know exactly where the chemicals went precisely.”

Arnowitt added that waterways contaminated by burning vinyl chloride gas could already be a source of air pollution for area residents. “The streams themselves are clearly an atmospheric source of chemical contamination for local residents…because the chemicals involved, they leach out of the stream and that’s a clear indication that the water was contaminated.”

Government officials and residents criticized Norfolk Southern’s response efforts in the weeks following the accident and urged the company to do more to help affected residents in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Led by GOP state Sen. Doug Mastriano, the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee voted to subpoena Norfolk Southern President and CEO Alan Shaw , after Shaw failed to show up to testify at the February hearing in Beaver County.


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