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Ohio train derailment – updates: Pete Buttigieg attacked by GOP over response to East Palestine disaster

Ohio train derailment – updates: Pete Buttigieg attacked by GOP over response to East Palestine disaster

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg is facing criticism by the GOP over his response to the East Palestine, Ohio, disaster.

Republican lawmakers have argued the Department of Transportation, helmed by Mr Buttigieg, doesn’t seem to be doing enough to prevent further tragedies.

“The Department of Transportation — your Department of Transportation — has things it can do,” Ohio Senator JD Vance told reporters after Mr Buttigieg pointed out to the Trump administration’s 2017 decision to roll back an earlier Obama rule which required some freight trains to use electronically-controlled pneumatic brakes if cars were carrying flammable liquids.

“Stop blaming Donald Trump, a guy who hasn’t been president for three years, and use the powers of the federal government to do the things necessary to help people in this community,” Mr Vance said, per The Washington Post.

In a letter to President Biden, Florida Senator Marco Rubio demanded Mr Buttigieg’s resignation, writing: “At no time has [ his little regard for the duties of the Secretary of Transportation] been more apparent than the past two weeks. Secretary Buttigieg refused to acknowledge the disaster in East Palestine, Ohio, until his intentional ignorance was no longer tenable.”

Mr Buttigieg has yet to visit East Palestine but said on Saturday that his department will hold Norfolk Southern “accountable for any safety violations found to have contributed to the disaster” after an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board is finalised.

Key points

  • Lawsuit alleges Norfolk's clean up efforts 'made it worse'

  • Angry Ohio residents seek answers on train's toxic spill

  • Animals drop dead as ecological disaster unfolds

  • Watch: Devastating aftermath of Ohio train derailment revealed in shocking drone footage

  • Ohio train derailment fallout map

Ohio lawmaker refuses to say if he would drink water in East Palestine

14:04 , Rachel Sharp

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown has refused to say whether or not he would drink the water in East Palestine in the aftermath of the train derailment.

The lawmaker skirted around the question in an interview with CNN on Sunday but said that he believes local residents are “right to be skeptical” about assurances coming from officials.

“Well, they’re right to be skeptical,” he said.

“We think the water is safe, but when you return to your home, you should be tested again for your water and your soil and your air, not to mention those that have their own wells.”

When asked if he personally would drink the water, and if other officials should reassure residents of its safety by doing so, he avoided giving a direct answer.

“Well, I think they are,” he said.

“I mean, I talked to the mayor. The mayor said definitively, emphatically, that people can drink the water. The mayor’s — I don’t know. I don’t think the mayor has small kids. He looks a little older to me. I didn’t ask him, but — about bathing his kids.”

Trump to visit East Palestine on Wednesday, after two weeks of silence on disastrous train derailment

14:00 , Andrea Blanco

Donald Trump says he will visit East Palestine, Ohio, two weeks after a freight train laden with toxic materials derailed and leaked into the community.

The former president’s son Donald Trump Jr first announced the visit on Friday, tweeting: “If our ‘leaders’ are too afraid to actually lead, real leaders will step up and fill the void.”

The scope of the visit was not specified but on Saturday, Mr Trump confirmed on his platform Truth Social that he will travel on Wednesday to the community with a population of 4,700.

Mr Trump did not miss a chance to slam the Biden administration, claiming that his announcement prompted the White House to deploy FEMA’s assistance to East Palestine. The agency issued a joint statement with Governor Mike DeWine on Friday saying a regional incident management assistance team will arrive in the village.

“Biden and FEMA said they would not be sending federal aid to East Palestine. As soon as I announced that I’m going, he announced a team will go,” Mr Trump said on Truth Social. “Hopefully he will also be there. This is good news because we got them to “move.” The people of East Palestine need help. I’ll see you on Wednesday!”

FEMA will send help to East Palestine

13:00 , Andrea Blanco

Two weeks after a freight train laden with toxic materials derailed and leaked into East Palestine, Ohio, Governor Mike Dewine announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will send assistance to the community.

The White House has previously said that FEMA was closely coordinating with the emergency operation centers responding to the incident, but the agency had yet to announce a visit to East Palestine.

“Tomorrow, FEMA will supplement federal efforts by deploying a Senior Response Official along with a Regional Incident Management Assistance Team (IMAT) to support ongoing

Environmental activist, PG&E whistleblower Erin Brockovich to visit East Palestine

12:00 , Andrea Blanco

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich will attend a town hall in East Palestine, Ohio, two weeks after a freight train laden with toxic materials derailed and leaked into the community.

Ms Brockovich announced her upcoming visit on Thursday through Twitter. The activist previously criticized the EPA and state lawmakers for telling people it was safe to return to their homes and at the same time, sending a legal notice to the rail operator over the threat of environmental contamination.

“This is why people don’t trust government,” she tweeted last week. “You cannot tell people that there has been and continues to be hazardous pollutants contaminating the environment while at the same time saying ‘all is well.’”

Ms Brockovich became a whistleblower in the 1993 Pacific Gas & Electric Company case after speaking out about unexplained illnesses that residents of Hinckley, California, were experiencing. A lawsuit in the case led to a $333 million settlement, while Ms Brockovich was portrayed in a 2000 movie by Julia Roberts.

What’s vinyl chloride?

11:00 , Andrea Blanco

Residents of the small town of East Palestine, Ohio are still dealing with the environmental consequences of a major train derailment this month.

Some 38 cars derailed from a Norfolk Southern freight train on 3 February. Around 10 of those cars were carrying hazardous materials when it careened off the tracks after suffering a broken axle, investigators said.

Some of the rail tankers contained vinyl chloride, which was at risk of a chemical explosion. Crews carried out a controlled burn of the substance to prevent a blast but still sent noxious black clouds billowing across the region.

Vinyl chloride, which is used to make plastic pipes, wires and packaging, is linked to increased risk of a rare form of liver cancer, hepatic angiosarcoma, along with primary liver cancer, brain and lung cancers, lymphoma and leukaemia, according to Cancer.gov.

Hydrogen chloride is released by burning vinyl chloride and also an irritant to the skin, nose, eyes and throat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Center for Environmental Health science director Jimena Díaz Leiva told CBS News that the dangers of vinyl chloride have been largely underestimated.

“This disaster is really a wakeup call,” Ms Leiva told the network. “...There needs to be a lot more regulatory oversight and action to address not just the safety and the actual transport around these chemicals, but also just stemming our production of all these chemicals.”

The Independent’s Josh Marcus has more.

East Palestine residents complaint of rashes, headaches, and respiratory symptoms

10:00 , Andrea Blanco

Residents of East Palestine, Ohio, have shared their contamination fears after a freight train laden with toxic materials derailed and leaked into the community.

“When we went back on the 10th, that’s when we decided that we couldn’t raise our kids here,” Amanda Greathouse told CNN, adding that a smell reminiscent of “hair perming solution” was still lingering. “When we left, I had a rash on my skin on my arm, and my eyes were burning for a few days after that.”

Ms Greathouse told the network that she had felt nauseous when she returned to her house, just a block away from the site of the derailment.

“The chemical smell was so strong that it made me nauseous,” Ms Greathouse, a mother of two young children, added.

“I just wanted to quickly pick up what I needed and leave. I only took a few pieces of clothes because even the clothes smelled like chemicals, and I’m afraid to put them on my kids.”

VOICES: I went home to report on the Ohio train derailment

09:00 , Andrea Blanco

“Like the rest of the country, I was shocked and morbidly fascinated by the towering pillar of black that rose above East Palestine in early February after a Norfolk Southern train derailed and officials chose to burn off the hazardous and highly flammable vinyl chloride gas it was carrying,” Graig Graziosi writes for The Independent.

Unlike the rest of the country, Graig was already very familiar with the tiny Ohio village — he spent many hours there in his early and late teens.

What he found was a deep - and justifiable - distrust.

I went home to report on the Ohio train derailment, and discovered a deep distrust

More than a dozen Norfolk Southern employees have died on job in the last 22 years

08:00 , Andrea Blanco

At least 18 Norfolk Southern employees have died on the job since 1991, according to figures from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Railroad Workers Union.

The latest fatality was in December 2022 when trainee conductor Walter James Griffin III was killed and another conductor was seriously injured after being struck by a piece of metal from a passing train car in Bessemer, Alabama. The death is still under investigation.

In 2005, nine people including one Norfolk Southern engineer died and 250 people were injured from toxic chlorine exposure after two Norfolk Southern freight trains collided near Graniteville, South Carolina.

The fatalities were a result of chlorine searing the victims’ lungs. An NTSB accident report blamed the crash on the failure of one train crew to return a main line switch to the normal position after completing work on the track.

The Ohio train derailment was ‘predicted’ by 2022 Netflix movie

07:00 , Andrea Blanco

Netflix viewers have drawn uncanny parallels between a recent film and the chemical spill that took place in Ohio earlier this month.

White Noise, starring Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig, was released on the Netflix late last year.

Adapted from the acclaimed 1985 novel by American writer Don DeLillo, the film follows a death-obsessed academic (Driver), and his family.

One of the biggest plot points in both the book and film concerns a train crash which release a huge cloud of toxic chemicals into the air, referred to somewhat euphemistically as the Airbourne Toxic Event.

The Independent’s Louis Chilton has the story:

Netflix movie White Noise ‘predicted’ train derailment in Ohio

ICYMI: All we know about affected areas and a cancer-causing chemical

06:00 , Andrea Blanco

A dark pillar of smoke rose above East Palestine, Ohio, in early February, prompting a mandatory evacuation of the village’s residents. A Norfolk Southern train carrying numerous hazardous chemicals had suffered a catastrophic mechanical failure, resulting in a derailment. Officials feared the flammable chemicals might ignite in a massive blast of shrapnel and poison, and elected to vent and burn the contents of the traincars to mitigate the potential for further destruction.

More than a week after the Ohio train derailment, information is still trickling out about what exactly happened and what risk the 5,000 residents of East Palestine — and the millions in the surrounding region — may face as a result of the crash.

Here’s everything we know about the train derailment, its causes, and what effect it has — and may have — on the people and the environment.

Train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio: Everything we know

Clinic to open near Ohio derailment next week as health worries linger

05:00 , Andrea Blanco

A plume of chemicals that spilled into the Ohio River after a fiery train derailment has broken up and is no longer a concern, Ohio’s governor said Friday. But worries remain near the disaster site among residents who have complained about lingering headaches and irritated eyes.

Despite repeated assurances that air and water testing has shown no signs of contaminants, some around East Palestine, along the Pennsylvania state line, are still skeptical and afraid to return to their homes.

Early next week, the state plans to open a medical clinic in the village to evaluate those who are worried and analyze their symptoms, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced. The clinic will include a team of experts in chemical exposures that is being deployed to eastern Ohio.

“These are very legitimate questions, and residents deserve an answer,” DeWine said while also emphasizing that testing inside and outside of homes in the village have no found no signs of toxins that were on the train. Associated Press

‘I’m exhausted’: East Palestine residents on mental toll of living in the shadow of catastrophic train accident

04:00 , Andrea Blanco

Residents affected by the train derailment are still waiting for satisfactory answers. The Independent’s Graig Graziosi reports from East Palestine.

Many are sceptical about the rail company Norfolk Southern’s intentions, sceptical about what they’re being told by the Environmental Protection Agency, and sceptical of the state’s response.

Read the full story below.

Uncertainty weighs heavy on East Palestine after train derailment

EPA administrator tells residents to ‘trust the government’

03:00 , Andrea Blanco

The head of the US Environmental Protection Agency got a first-hand look on Thursday at the toll left by a freight train derailment in Ohio, where toxic chemicals spilled or were burned off, leaving the stench of fresh paint nearly two weeks later.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan, who walked along a creek that still reeks of chemicals, sought to reassure skeptical residents that the water is fit for drinking and the air safe to breathe around East Palestine, where just under 5,000 people live near the Pennsylvania state line.

“I’m asking they trust the government. I know that’s hard. We know there’s a lack of trust,” Regan said. “We’re testing for everything that was on that train.”

The DC blame game begins over Ohio train derailment. Whose fault is it?

02:00 , Andrea Blanco

“The only way I can describe it is like the doors of hell were open.”

That’s how Mahoning County Hazmat chief Steve Szekely described the acrid cloud of black smoke in the aftermath of the 3 February train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, where around 50 cars, some of them carrying toxic chemicals, went sliding off the tracks.

That disaster has caused residents and local wildlife to suffer a variety of symptoms, and led to chaos in Washington DC, as officials have sought to pin the tragedy on one party or policy.

Read more of Josh Marcus’s report for The Independent below.

The DC blame game begins over Ohio train derailment. Whose fault is it?

Mapped: Where did the train carrying toxic chemicals crash in Ohio?

01:00 , Andrea Blanco

East Palestine was thrown into chaos on the night of 3 February when a 150-car Norfolk Southern train carrying toxic chemicals and other materials suffered a catastrophic mechanical failure, hurtling the cars off the tracks.

Where did the train crash in Ohio?

Senator Sherrod Brown calls for state of emergency to be declared in East Palestine

00:00 , Andrea Blanco

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown has called on governor Mike DeWine to declare a state of emergency in East Palestine after a catastrophic derailment bled chemicals into the water, air and earth.

“A man-made disaster of this scale, scope, and significance necessitates a response and deployment of resources that are commensurate in scale and scope,” Mr Brown said in a statement.

Mr Brown said he was grateful to the state agencies who have responded to the “unprecedented disaster” on 3 February.

“But it’s critical we act quickly to supplement those efforts,” adding that additional federal resources would play a critical role in helping residents get back on their feet.

Pete Buttigieg facing criticism by the GOP over his response to the East Palestine disaster

Sunday 19 February 2023 22:59 , Andrea Blanco

Republican lawmakers have argued the Department of Transportation, helmed by Mr Buttigieg, doesn’t seem to be doing enough to prevent further tragedies.

“The Department of Transportation — your Department of Transportation — has things it can do,” Ohio Senator JD Vance told reporters after Mr Buttigieg pointed out to the Trump administration’s 2017 decision to roll back an earlier Obama rule which required some freight trains to use electronically-controlled pneumatic brakes if cars were carrying flammable liquids.

“Stop blaming Donald Trump, a guy who hasn’t been president for three years, and use the powers of the federal government to do the things necessary to help people in this community,” Mr Vance said, per The Washington Post.

In a letter to President Biden, Florida Senator Marco Rubio demanded Mr Buttigieg’s resignation, writing: “At no time has [ his little regard for the duties of the Secretary of Transportation] been more apparent than the past two weeks. Secretary Buttigieg refused to acknowledge the disaster in East Palestine, Ohio, until his intentional ignorance was no longer tenable.”

Mr Buttigieg has yet to visit East Palestine but said on Saturday that his department will hold Norfolk Southern “accountable for any safety violations found to have contributed to the disaster” after an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board is finalised.

Trump says he will visit East Palestine after two weeks of silence on disastrous train derailment

Sunday 19 February 2023 21:02 , Andrea Blanco

Donald Trump says he will visit East Palestine, Ohio, two weeks after a freight train laden with toxic materials derailed and leaked into the community.

The former president’s son Donald Trump Jr first announced the visit on Friday, tweeting: “If our ‘leaders’ are too afraid to actually lead, real leaders will step up and fill the void.”

The scope of the visit was not specified but on Saturday, Mr Trump confirmed on his platform Truth Social that he will travel on Wednesday to the community with a population of 4,700.

Mr Trump did not miss a chance to slam the Biden administration, claiming that his announcement prompted the White House to deploy FEMA’s assistance to East Palestine. The agency issued a joint statement with Governor Mike DeWine on Friday saying a regional incident management assistance team will arrive in the village.

“Biden and FEMA said they would not be sending federal aid to East Palestine. As soon as I announced that I’m going, he announced a team will go,” Mr Trump said on Truth Social. “Hopefully he will also be there. This is good news because we got them to “move.” The people of East Palestine need help. I’ll see you on Wednesday!”

Criminal charges dropped against NewsNation reporter covering Ohio train derailment

Sunday 19 February 2023 19:41 , Andrea Blanco

Criminal charges against a NewsNation reporter who was arrested while covering the toxic train derailment in East Palestine have been dropped, the Ohio Attorney General announced this week.

Evan Lambert was charged with criminal trespass and resisting arrest while trying to record a live broadcast during a press conference of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine on 8 February.

Bodycam footage showed two highway patrol officers confront Mr Lambert for being too loud, and then push him to the ground.

Read more from Bevan Hurley’s report below.

Charges dismissed for reporter arrested while covering train derailment

Senator Sherrod Brown calls for state of emergency to be declared in East Palestine

Sunday 19 February 2023 18:29 , Andrea Blanco

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown has called on governor Mike DeWine to declare a state of emergency in East Palestine after a catastrophic derailment bled chemicals into the water, air and earth.

“A man-made disaster of this scale, scope, and significance necessitates a response and deployment of resources that are commensurate in scale and scope,” Mr Brown said in a statement.

Read the full story.

Norfolk Southern, the company behind Ohio’s toxic train disaster: Deaths, silenced whistleblowers, and $10bn for shareholders

Sunday 19 February 2023 17:16 , Andrea Blanco

The rail company behind the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, had a history of safety failures long before the 3 February disaster, The Independent can reveal.

Norfolk Southern has a checkered past of deadly accidents and silencing whistleblowers, and was lambasted for safety failures last year after it authorised $10bn stock buybacks for shareholders rather than maintenance.

It has also emerged that the freight train – which derailed in East Palestine while carrying toxic chemicals – had broken down just two days earlier.

The Independent’s Bevan Hurley and Louise Boyle have more:

The controversial company behind Ohio’s toxic train disaster

Environmental activist, PG&E whistleblower Erin Brockovich to visit East Palestine

Sunday 19 February 2023 16:12 , Andrea Blanco

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich will attend a town hall in East Palestine, Ohio, two weeks after a freight train laden with toxic materials derailed and leaked into the community.

Ms Brockovich announced her upcoming visit on Thursday through Twitter. The activist previously criticized the EPA and state lawmakers for telling people it was safe to return to their homes and at the same time, sending a legal notice to the rail operator over the threat of environmental contamination.

“This is why people don’t trust government,” she tweeted last week. “You cannot tell people that there has been and continues to be hazardous pollutants contaminating the environment while at the same time saying ‘all is well.’”

Ms Brockovich became a whistleblower in the 1993 Pacific Gas & Electric Company case after speaking out about unexplained illnesses that residents of Hinckley, California, were experiencing. A lawsuit in the case led to a $333 million settlement, while Ms Brockovich was portrayed in a 2000 movie by Julia Roberts.

What’s vynil chloride?

Sunday 19 February 2023 15:05 , Andrea Blanco

Residents of the small town of East Palestine, Ohio are still dealing with the environmental consequences of a major train derailment this month.

Some 38 cars derailed from a Norfolk Southern freight train on 3 February. Around 10 of those cars were carrying hazardous materials when it careened off the tracks after suffering a broken axle, investigators said.

Some of the rail tankers contained vinyl chloride, which was at risk of a chemical explosion. Crews carried out a controlled burn of the substance to prevent a blast but still sent noxious black clouds billowing across the region.

Vinyl chloride, which is used to make plastic pipes, wires and packaging, is linked to increased risk of a rare form of liver cancer, hepatic angiosarcoma, along with primary liver cancer, brain and lung cancers, lymphoma and leukaemia, according to Cancer.gov.

Hydrogen chloride is released by burning vinyl chloride and also an irritant to the skin, nose, eyes and throat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Center for Environmental Health science director Jimena Díaz Leiva told CBS News that the dangers of vinyl chloride have been largely underestimated.

“This disaster is really a wakeup call,” Ms Leiva told the network. “...There needs to be a lot more regulatory oversight and action to address not just the safety and the actual transport around these chemicals, but also just stemming our production of all these chemicals.”

The Independent’s Josh Marcus has more.

FEMA to send help to East Palestine

Sunday 19 February 2023 14:00 , Andrea Blanco

Two weeks after a freight train laden with toxic materials derailed and leaked into East Palestine, Ohio, Governor Mike Dewine announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will send assistance to the community.

The White House has previously said that FEMA was closely coordinating with the emergency operation centers responding to the incident, but the agency had yet to announce a visit to East Palestine.

“Tomorrow, FEMA will supplement federal efforts by deploying a Senior Response Official along with a Regional Incident Management Assistance Team (IMAT) to support ongoing operations, including incident coordination and ongoing assessments of potential long term recovery needs,” a joint statement by the Governor’s office and FEMA read.

Clinic to open near Ohio derailment next week as health worries linger

Sunday 19 February 2023 13:00 , Andrea Blanco

A plume of chemicals that spilled into the Ohio River after a fiery train derailment has broken up and is no longer a concern, Ohio’s governor said Friday. But worries remain near the disaster site among residents who have complained about lingering headaches and irritated eyes.

Despite repeated assurances that air and water testing has shown no signs of contaminants, some around East Palestine, along the Pennsylvania state line, are still skeptical and afraid to return to their homes.

Early next week, the state plans to open a medical clinic in the village to evaluate those who are worried and analyze their symptoms, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced. The clinic will include a team of experts in chemical exposures that is being deployed to eastern Ohio.

“These are very legitimate questions, and residents deserve an answer,” DeWine said while also emphasizing that testing inside and outside of homes in the village have no found no signs of toxins that were on the train. Associated Press

East Palestine residents on mental toll of living in the shadow of catastrophic train accident

Sunday 19 February 2023 12:00 , Andrea Blanco

On the night of the Ohio train derailment, Eric Cozza heard far more than a rattle from his East Palestine home, less than half a mile from the Norfolk Southern trains.

“I felt the foundations shaking,” he said, standing on his front porch nearly two weeks after a train carrying vinyl chloride and other hazardous chemicals derailed within walking distance of his home.

He was immediately forced to evacuate, but finding lodging for himself, his two large dogs, and the rest of his family — a total of seven — was no easy task.

The Independent’s Graig Graziosi has the story:

Uncertainty weighs heavy on East Palestine after train derailment

East Palestine residents complaint of rashes, headaches, and respiratory symptoms

Sunday 19 February 2023 11:00 , Andrea Blanco

Residents of East Palestine, Ohio, have shared their contamination fears after a freight train laden with toxic materials derailed and leaked into the community.

“When we went back on the 10th, that’s when we decided that we couldn’t raise our kids here,” Amanda Greathouse told CNN, adding that a smell reminiscent of “hair perming solution” was still lingering. “When we left, I had a rash on my skin on my arm, and my eyes were burning for a few days after that.”

Ms Greathouse told the network that she had felt nauseous when she returned to her house, just a block away from the site of the derailment.

“The chemical smell was so strong that it made me nauseous,” Ms Greathouse, a mother of two young children, added.

“I just wanted to quickly pick up what I needed and leave. I only took a few pieces of clothes because even the clothes smelled like chemicals, and I’m afraid to put them on my kids.”

Trump says he will visit East Palestine after two weeks of silence on disastrous train derailment

Sunday 19 February 2023 10:00 , Andrea Blanco

Donald Trump says he will visit East Palestine, Ohio, two weeks after a freight train laden with toxic materials derailed and leaked into the community.

The former president’s son Donald Trump Jr first announced the visit on Friday, tweeting: “If our ‘leaders’ are too afraid to actually lead, real leaders will step up and fill the void.”

The scope of the visit was not specified but on Saturday, Mr Trump confirmed on his platform Truth Social that he will travel on Wednesday to the community with a population of 4,700.

Mr Trump did not miss a chance to slam the Biden administration, claiming that his announcement prompted the White House to deploy FEMA’s assistance to East Palestine. The agency issued a joint statement with Governor Mike DeWine on Friday saying a regional incident management assistance team will arrive in the village.

“Biden and FEMA said they would not be sending federal aid to East Palestine. As soon as I announced that I’m going, he announced a team will go,” Mr Trump said on Truth Social. “Hopefully he will also be there. This is good news because we got them to “move.” The people of East Palestine need help. I’ll see you on Wednesday!”

WATCH: Devastating aftermath of Ohio train derailment revealed in shocking drone footage

Sunday 19 February 2023 09:00 , Andrea Blanco

More than a dozen Norfolk Southern employees have died on the job since 1991

Sunday 19 February 2023 08:00 , Andrea Blanco

At least 18 Norfolk Southern employees have died on the job since 1991, according to figures from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Railroad Workers Union.

The latest fatality was in December 2022 when trainee conductor Walter James Griffin III was killed and another conductor was seriously injured after being struck by a piece of metal from a passing train car in Bessemer, Alabama. The death is still under investigation.

In 2005, nine people including one Norfolk Southern engineer died and 250 people were injured from toxic chlorine exposure after two Norfolk Southern freight trains collided near Graniteville, South Carolina.

The fatalities were a result of chlorine searing the victims’ lungs. An NTSB accident report blamed the crash on the failure of one train crew to return a main line switch to the normal position after completing work on the track.

Senator Sherrod Brown calls for state of emergency to be declared in East Palestine

Sunday 19 February 2023 07:00 , Andrea Blanco

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown has called on governor Mike DeWine to declare a state of emergency in East Palestine after a catastrophic derailment bled chemicals into the water, air and earth.

“A man-made disaster of this scale, scope, and significance necessitates a response and deployment of resources that are commensurate in scale and scope,” Mr Brown said in a statement.

Read the full story.

Whistleblower Erin Brockovich to visit East Palestine

Sunday 19 February 2023 06:00 , Andrea Blanco

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich will attend a town hall in East Palestine, Ohio, two weeks after a freight train laden with toxic materials derailed and leaked into the community.

Ms Brockovich announced her upcoming visit on Thursday through Twitter. The activist previously criticized the EPA and state lawmakers for telling people it was safe to return to their homes and at the same time, sending a legal notice to the rail operator over the threat of environmental contamination.

“This is why people don’t trust government,” she tweeted last week. “You cannot tell people that there has been and continues to be hazardous pollutants contaminating the environment while at the same time saying ‘all is well.’”

Ms Brockovich became a whistleblower in the 1993 Pacific Gas & Electric Company case after speaking out about unexplained illnesses that residents of Hinckley, California, were experiencing. A lawsuit in the case led to a $333 million settlement, while Ms Brockovich was portrayed in a 2000 movie by Julia Roberts.

East Palestine livestock owners race to protect their animals after train derailment

Sunday 19 February 2023 05:00 , Andrea Blanco

The Independent’s Graig Graziosi reported on the ground in East Palestine this week, documenting residents’ growing fears of chemicals spilled into their community in the 3 February train derailment.

More than two weeks on from the catastrophe, he spoke to livestock owners about their frantic efforts to save their animals, including Sonia Early.

In the coming weeks — maybe months, maybe longer — they will be monitoring, Ms Early said. Monitoring her horses’ health, monitoring the water quality, monitoring her and her family’s well-being, and monitoring how the outside world views the village of East Palestine.

“Here’s our huge concern,” she said, “we had a company that was willing to lease out [the Early’s adjacent property]. Will anyone even want to come in and run a business now? They’re not going to want to buy homes, they’re not going to want to bring their business in to town. I have a five-year-old grandbaby and I’m scared to death.”

Read more:

East Palestine livestock owners race to protect their animals after train derailment

WATCH: Couple and daughter diagnosed with respiratory conditions following Ohio train crash

Sunday 19 February 2023 04:00 , Andrea Blanco

What is the EPA doing in East Palestine?

Sunday 19 February 2023 03:00 , Andrea Blanco

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published a list of its activities in the aftermath of the Ohio rail disaster.

Among its tasks, the agency reports that it is monitoring air quality for a wide range of compounds, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), phosgene and hydrogen chloride.

It is also screening the indoor air monitoring of 500 homes under a voluntary screening program offered to residents.

“No detections of vinyl chloride or hydrogen chloride were identified above levels of concern,” the agency said. However it is continuing to offer screening to residents within the evacuation zone.

‘Disgusting’ rainbow-coloured slicks found near Ohio train derailment

Sunday 19 February 2023 02:00 , Andrea Blanco

Videos posted by several Twitter users, including by Republican senator JD Vance, revealed multi-coloured chemical slicks on the surface of small streams near the Ohio train derailment area in East Palestine.

“This is disgusting,” Mr Vance said in a video posted on Twitter.

The videos seemed to depict the contamination of water bodies by vinyl chloride, according to John Senko, a professor of geosciences and biology at the University of Akron, USA Today reported.

“It looks like what’s happening is you got some of that stuff on the bottom of the creek, you stir it up a little bit, it starts to come up and then it’s just going to sink again. So that stuff’s behaving like I would expect vinyl chloride to behave,” Dr Senko said.