AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
Ohio is no stranger to environmental contamination. We have a nose for industry here, and have lived in close quarters with complex molotov-esque chemical cocktail infrastructure and factories. Sure, our mighty Cuyahoga river did catch on fire - multiple times, but Ohio is known for its grit. We have a high tolerance for contamination. However, the catastrophic train wreck in East Palestine Ohio is too unsettling for even us to witness, and the general sense of “nothing to see here” has left many feeling without confidence in their local and federal governments. The laughable payment of $1000 to the residents of East Palestine from the railway in question, Norfolk Southern, seems very much like hush money, although referred to as an "inconvenience fee". Although he was eventually released without charge, we've seen a journalist reporting on the wreck arrested. The response from the EPA and other agencies has left many unsure of the safety the air in their homes and the water coming from their taps.
It’s no surprise many locals feel confused and frustrated. Some have reported breaking out in rashes, tap water emits a sulphuric odor, the smell of burning plastic hangs in the air. Days later many have chosen to continue drinking bottled water even after they’ve tested their water source for further contaminants. The bodies of 3000 plus fish litter local creeks, a glaring reminder of a contaminated watershed that flows to the Ohio River.
Ohio BHA will work with our conservation and legislative partners to ensure three critical actions are taken:
- Health care and monitoring for citizens of East Palestine
- Ongoing water quality testing for regions downstream of this disaster
- Improvements in railway safety to insure this doesn't happen again
We owe it to the people of East Palestine to insure their health, and we owe it to ourselves to not let this happen again. This horror is already in progress, and mitigating the results is important, but preventing the next disaster or the next 20 disasters is also critical. We can and must do better.
by Jess L. Gantos and Dustin Lindley