Marisa Twigg, Creative and Communications Director, February 24, 2023
EAST PALESTINE, OH — During a community meeting in East Palestine Thursday night held by local advocates from River Valley Organizing, residents voiced concerns about continued chemical exposure in their homes, in their water and in their soil. The needs expressed by East Palestine and the surrounding communities must be prioritized by elected officials and agency decision-makers. Staff from the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) attended this community meeting, and we continue to amplify the call of residents that independent and robust environmental testing should be available for all communities affected by this incident.
Experts joined the community meeting to answer questions and offer advice, including a shared concern that neither the Ohio EPA nor the U.S. EPA are currently testing for dioxins, a class of chemicals that take years to break down. Dioxins are highly toxic as well as cancer-causing. The OEC urges the U.S. EPA to immediately begin testing for dioxins in homes and soil to determine if these bioaccumulating chemicals are present in East Palestine and the surrounding communities that were exposed to the chemical plume.
These resident concerns follow two major developments in the East Palestine clean-up efforts as the agencies’ response transitions from “emergency phase” to a longer-term environmental clean-up phase. On Thursday, the National Transportation Safety Board released its initial report deeming Norfolk Southern’s train derailment “100% preventable.” On Tuesday, U.S. EPA Administrator Michael Regan announced that the agency established a “unified command structure” to coordinate the multi-agency clean-up of East Palestine. The agency also legally ordered Norfolk Southern to finish cleaning up the entire train derailment site — including in nearby waterways and under the tracks, where contaminated soil was covered to rebuild the tracks.
In response to this evolving situation, the following quote can be attributed to Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) Managing Director of Water Policy Melanie Houston:
“We continue to share and uplift the concerns of the residents of East Palestine: the U.S. EPA must immediately test the community for dioxin exposure and Norfolk Southern must be held fully accountable for the long-term public health, environmental and local economic impacts of this entirely preventable corporate disaster. Not only must Norfolk Southern pay for these impacts, they must compensate all residents affected — with no strings attached.
“Thanks to the initial investigation findings from the National Transportation Safety Board, it’s clear that disasters like Norfolk Southern’s train derailment in East Palestine are absolutely preventable. Again, elected officials and agency decision-makers must prioritize the people of Ohio over the profits of corporate polluters. We look forward to working with lawmakers on these important legislative changes.”