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East Palestine holds town hall in Ohio after disaster, Norfolk Southern didn't attend

East Palestine town hall on Norfolk Southern derailment and chemical spill and burn
Posted at 7:38 PM, Feb 15, 2023

Residents of the small Ohio village of East Palestine gathered in a high school auditorium on Wednesday night to speak directly to community leaders and lawmakers about the train derailment disaster which sparked an evacuation of residents within a one-mile radius.

The train's operator, Norfolk Southern, said representatives for the companywould not attend.

In a statement released to the media the company said it had become "increasingly concerned about the growing physical threat to our employees and members of the community around this event stemming from the increasing likelihood of the participation of outside parties."

The moderator of the meeting told the crowd that Norfolk Southern was invited multiple times but they did not accept.

"I know you're frustrated!" He responded, as people shouted from the crowd.

Congressman Bill Johnson, who represents the area, told the crowd to come down to him after the meeting and give him the questions and he will make sure they are answered by Norfolk Southern. The audience continued yelling, asking "why are we getting sick" if there is nothing in the air. The crowd kept pressing, asking why animals are dying.

Johnson said, "I'm not a doctor and I'm not a chemist."

"If you've got ailments and conditions that you did not have before February 3rd, go to your doctor, get that documented, keep that health record," and Johnson promised to "elevate that issue" and get an answer.

Residents complained of headaches and not knowing the exact cause because of a lack of testing for chemical toxicity that "may be causing these symptoms," one resident said at the meeting.

"Who determined the one-mile radius evacuation zone?" one resident shouted out from the audience.

One of the speakers addressing the audience said that the radius was determined by the Department of Transportation and other subject matter experts for an evacuation zone, and claimed the same is used across the country.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) updated its website Wednesday and said on Feb. 14 the agency completed screenings for 459 homes, and had 28 screenings scheduled for Wednesday.

The EPA said the total drinking water wells that were sampled as of Feb. 15 was 21. Air monitoring by the EPA in ongoing according to the agency.

The EPA and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine have said that there is no evidence of contaminants associated with the derailment to the water supply, but the EPA said on Feb. 15 that Norfolk Southern is delivering bottled water to East Palestine and will help distribute it.

Local police were seen in front of the community members seated in bleachers as the energy in the room became increasingly tense.

On Feb. 10 the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency released information on water quality sampling for surface water and said it showed "very low levels of two contaminants, butyl acylate and ethyl hexyl acrylate" in an area called Leslie Run, and said it would dissipate quickly.

The state agency said it detected no butyl acrylate in an area called North Fork Little Beaver Creek or in another location called Little Beaver Creek. The agency said it detected lower levels of hexyl acrylate in North Fork Little Beaver Creek, about a 20 minute drive southwest of the City of East Palestine.

The agency said it did not detect vinyl chloride in any of the waterways it tested.