East Palestine, Ohio Update

On Feb. 3, 2023, a train derailed in the town of East Palestine, Ohio, with its cargo of toxic chemicals spilling out onto the ground, starting a fire that clouded the town and its neighboring cities in thick smoke. The effects of this chemical fire are still felt at this moment, with the surrounding water and soil containing unsafe materials.

The town had its water and soil sources thoroughly tested by professionals to determine if they are safe to use, and there are varying results. As far as the public use drinking water is concerned, officials have determined that there is no danger to the water, making it ultimately safe. 

According to the Ohio EPA’s official website, “As of right now, there is no indication of risk to East Palestine Public Water customers.”

This ensures the safety of the bottled and distributed public water sourced from the area, but the effects on the local streams are yet to be fully reversed. There remains multiple different hazardous chemicals in the water of the Sulphur Creek and Leslie Run creek, creeks leading into the Ohio River, but the Ohio River itself shows no signs of contamination.

With that being said, officials still urge private well owners to check their water for contaminants before use. There is also the issue of thousands of dead aquatic animals being discovered at the nearby creeks, causing local citizens to feel unsafe in their homes. 

Support from notable politicians for the victims of the disaster has been a topic of hot debate, as former President Donald Trump made a visit to the town, while current President Joe Biden has not yet made a visit. During Trump’s visit, he offered relief to the victims of the train derailment in the form of cleaning supplies and water. While there, he delivered a speech showing support for the town, while simultaneously denouncing the current government for their inaction.

While Biden has not made an appearance in the town yet, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre reassures that the trip will occur “at some point,” with his efforts focused mostly on “making the community feel safe.”

Although the federal government is doing what they can to ensure that the water and air in East Palestine is safe, many consider the lack of an appearance by President Biden to showcase a lack of care for the citizens. The support from the country is minimal, but the Environmental Protection Agency has been undergoing efforts to both clean up the spill and lay responsibility for the derailment on the train company itself, Norfolk Southern.

The EPA released an official statement soon after the derailment, ordering Norfolk Southern to clean up contaminated sources, reimburse the EPA for the clean-up they have already done, and attend any public meeting that the EPA creates for them. 

These rules have since been met, with a meeting most recently being held on March 2nd, where Norfolk Southern officials communicated with the people of East Palestine. The citizens of East Palestine, still uneasy about the toxicity of the chemical spill, were upset by the lack of action done by Norfolk Southern and the U.S. government.

While reports on the water and air quality purport that there is little to worry about, East Palestine citizens continue to call for further action, citing a lack of care from those that caused the mess they are currently in. Few have the ability to relocate from the town, and as such, worry for their health and the health of their children.