The head of the US Environmental Protection Agency tried to reassure residents of East Palestine that their water is fit to drink and their air is safe to breathe after a train derailed earlier this month – releasing a toxic plume of chemicals.
“I’m asking they trust the government. I know that’s hard. We know there’s a lack of trust,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said. “We’re testing for everything that was on that train.”
On 3 February, around 50 train cars, including 10 carrying hazardous materials, derailed in the Ohio town of around 5,000 residents.
Vinyl chloride was later released into the air before crews ignited it to get rid of the highly flammable, toxic chemicals in a controlled way, creating a dark plume of smoke.
Since the accident, some of the residents of East Palestine have complained about headaches and irritated eyes.
Others said their pets or livestock have been sickened. And at least, 3,500 fish have been found dead.
“I have three grandbabies,” said Kathy Dyke, who went to a public meeting about the accident on Wednesday. “Are they going to grow up here in five years and have cancer?”
In the meeting, Regan said that anyone who is fearful of being in their home should seek testing from the government.
“People have been unnerved. They’ve been asked to leave their homes.”
At least five lawsuits have been filed against the railroad company, Norfolk Southern, which announced that it is creating a €941 million fund to help the community while continuing to clean up the area.
“We are here and will stay here for as long as it takes to ensure your safety and to help East Palestine recover and thrive,” Norfolk Southern President and CEO Alan Shaw said.
State and federal officials have also promised that they will make sure that the company pays for the clean-up and reimburses residents.