On Feb. 3, a freight train containing multiple hazardous chemicals derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. The chemicals that were released could now be releasing toxins to nearby civilians. How will all the chemicals spilled affect neighboring states and nearby civilians, and what is the government doing to help those affected?
The Norfolk Southern freight train that started its journey from Madison, Illinois derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. The train spilled many toxic chemicals and led to a controlled substance fire. According to officials, the likely cause for the derailment is an overheated wheel bearing on the train’s 23rd car. About 20 of the 150 train cars contained hazardous materials.,the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed.
The chemicals that spilled have been worrying nearby civilians. With almost all the chemicals causing some sort of a health issue, why wouldn’t they be? In fact, there is even a possibility the chemicals may contaminate the drinking water of nearby cities and states. This leaves many to wonder what steps the government will take to soothe the community and make things right; however, from the way the situation is headed, it seems like those in charge have failed us yet again when we need them the most.
The train was carrying multiple toxic chemicals like Butyl acrylate, Ethylhexyl acrylate, Ethylene glycol, and so many more chemicals. Each of these chemicals causes a range of medical issues like difficulty breathing, skin irritation, irritation to the eyes and respiratory tract, headaches, vomiting, etc. The EPA has said they do not feel any of these chemicals could go into the air or even homes, but experts have said they have not done enough testing in enough places to see if it is not possible.
Many civilians who live near the crash are upset about how long it took Pete Buttigieg, the transportation secretary, to visit the train derailment site, with many calling for his resignation. Considering that he has not done much to address the situation even though he holds such an esteemed position, the public is clearly in the right. It took Buttigieg three weeks to visit the site with backlash coming from both Republicans and Democrats feeling that he should have visited sooner. Former President Trump was able to visit the site before him, even handing out Trump-branded water. He did not offer much help to those who have questions about whether the water is safe to drink or if the air is safe to breathe. Instead, he downplayed the situation by claiming that there are thousands of train derailments every year making it seem like this one is not as important or was not avoidable. Since then, he has said that it was a mistake that he visited too late but has not said much about how he will help the people who live near the train derailment.
Savannah Hernandez, a writer for The Post Millennial, asked Buttigieg why it took him so long to get to the site of the derailment and how he will try to prevent any other derailments like this one from happening again.
“What I’m really proud of is the community that I saw here. – We’ve got a community that has been through a lot that I think is pretty frustrated with people trying to take political advantage of this situation,” Buttigieg explained.
Debra Shore, a regional administrator for the EPA, shared with the New York Times how nearby homes and air should not be affected by the chemicals that were spilled in the derailment during a news conference.
“We’ve been testing for the most toxic chemicals that we knew of on the train,” Shore shares. “And we have seen no exceedances inside the homes or in the local air.”
Although the EPA has said that no one should be affected, people nearby have claimed they have been feeling ill or gotten sick. One such person is Melissa Blake, who lives only a mile from the crash. She began coughing gray mucus and having trouble breathing and was then diagnosed with acute bronchitis due to chemical fumes during her visit to the emergency room. She was told that it was caused by exposure to potentially hazardous chemicals, and now she is on three types of steroids and requires external assistance in order to breathe.
Yet, Blake is not the only one who has gotten sick. Five of the ten workers at a manufacturing company near the crash have become sick after the derailment. Those workers ended up with rashes, nausea, bloody nose, and eye issues that came along with coughing and wheezing. Even with all these people getting sick just after the crash experts are saying that it is difficult to tell if these illnesses are coming from the spilled chemicals.
It is disgraceful to see how long it has taken a political leader to take care of a situation like this, especially considering the fact that it is something that involves dangerous chemicals and substances that can drastically impair the lives of innocent civilians. What seems like a harmless chemical spill now can easily escalate into a nationwide catastrophe that can put many lives at risk. If more of the wealthy were affected by this, I am sure that this situation would have been treated as a priority and have been taken care of right away and not simply overlooked. It is devastating to see a political leader downplay a situation that is clearly a dangerous health hazard to its surrounding community. Instead of taking immediate action to prevent future derailments or give hope to civilians that the problem will be solved, the government is once again turning a blind eye to its people and ignoring our woes.