A small Ohio town may spend the next decade recovering from toxic chemicals being released into the community after a train carrying hazardous materials derailed in early February, prominent environmentalist Erin Brockovich told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
East Palestine residents temporarily evacuated the town after a Norfolk Southern train derailed on Feb. 3 and a controlled burn spilled chemicals including vinyl chloride into the air and water. Residents have since reported various health concerns including headaches and rashes, and Brockovich warned that it could take decades for the consequences of the derailment to be known.
“What we need to do is look forward and what information that we need, what they need to look for, it’s going to take time to get that. And in the interim just be protective and conscientious of any changes in the water, the smells, how you feel and act accordingly,” Brockovich told the DCNF. “We can’t just sit around and expect that the US [Environmental Protection Agency] or any other agency or anybody is going to do that for us other than ourselves. So we need to get that information out about what to expect going forward and it’s going to be decades of cleanup.”
Brockovich is known for her legal battle against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) after she alleged the company dumped toxic chemicals into the Hinkley, California, drinking water; the utility giant settled for $333 million in 1996, ABC News reported. Brockovich is currently in East Palestine where she will host a town hall meeting on Friday night to speak with concerned residents about their legal rights, give information for doctors and toxicologists and what to be prepared for.
“They need the gosh darn whole truth and nothing but the truth,” Brockovich told the DCNF. “I operate from the worst case scenario … because I can prepare for the worst case scenario and if it doesn’t happen, hallelujah, and if it does happen, I was prepared. I can have a plan. You can’t protect yourself if you don’t disclose to them what the future might look like.”
The EPA arrived at the crash site hours after it occurred on Feb. 3 and has since tested the air quality more than 550 homes and detected “no exceedances for residential air quality standards,” according to its website. The EPA also reported “no water quality concerns” and the Columbiana County Health Department continues to provide well water screenings.
Residents are still concerned about the long-term effects that the derailment could have on the community. An East Palestine local previously told the DCNF that her five-year-old child became sick after playing in the local park and said that the fallout has been “scarier than you think.”
“When an environmental disaster happens like this, this is not going to be all cleaned up and gone tomorrow. They dug a very big hole and dumped a whole lot of chemicals in it that are not going to be in that water table and on the march for potentially decades,” Brockovich told the DCNF. “You could be having soil vapor plumes develop that need to be monitored and you have a community that’s been impacted for days and weeks.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services opened a health assessment clinic on Tuesday to answer resident’s questions and evaluate symptoms, according to an Ohio Emergency Management System news release.
“When somebody’s been exposed to a chemical, and they don’t know how big a dose it is that they got or how their immune system will deal with that, could develop cancers,” Brockovich said. “And that’s always the biggest concern for these communities and mostly their children.”
Bree Hall, an East Palestine resident, previously told the DCNF she was concerned about what “could happen in five, 10, 15 years from now.”
“I have two young children and I don’t know what holds for them, and as their mother I’m not really sure what the best course of action is,” she said.
Former President Donald Trump visited East Palestine on Wednesday to meet with state politicians and residents and donated pallets of water cases and cleaning supplies. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg toured the derailment site and met with officials Thursday, during which the National Transportation Security Board released a preliminary report revealing the wheel bearings on the train had overheated before the derailment.
The town hall will take place at 6 p.m. and residents are required to pre-register due to limited capacity.
Post written by Alexa Schwerha. Republished with permission from DCNF. Images via Becker News.
"*" indicates required fields
OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.