Frustration, anger and fear continued in the US state of Ohio on Thursday as residents in the village of East Palestine tried to cope with the lingering effects from the derailment of a hazardous materials train nearly two weeks after the disaster.
Officials from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) arrived in town to try and calm people’s worries over air pollution from the toxic chemicals released into the air after the derailment on Feb. 3.
“Since the fire went out, EPA air monitoring has not detected any levels of health concern in the community that are attributed to the train derailment,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan at a news conference.
“The EPA has assisted with the screening of more than 480 homes under the voluntary screening program offered to residents,” he continued. “And no detections of vinyl chloride or hydrogen chloride were identified. And we’re continuing to make those screenings available to any resident that wants to have their indoor air tested.”
But not all residents were comforted by Regan’s safety assessment.
“I’m going to East Palestine and will get a glass of water and I’m going to ask him to drink it because I don’t believe it,” said resident Dave Anderson in response to Regan’s statement, according to The Washington Post.
Anderson and hundreds of other residents are also concerned about lingering and possibly long-term health effects from the hazardous materials spill.
Workers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have also been called in to assist residents who are experiencing health problems, including burning sensations in their mouth, lips and tongue. Many have also experienced nausea, dizziness, headaches, runny noses, watery eyes and tongue swelling.
“Our tongues still feel like they have been scalded, like if you drank something that was too hot,” said Anderson.
The EPA, CDC and HHS will remain in East Palestine to monitor air quality and oversee residents’ health concerns.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) continues to investigate the cause of the derailment.
Residents have already begun filing several class action lawsuits against Norfolk Southern Railway for both monetary compensation and medical monitoring.
“No community should have to go through something like this,” said Ohio US Rep. Bill Johnson in a statement. “But you need to know that you’re not alone.”
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