Residents in East Palestine, Ohio, are reporting that their livestock and animals are falling ill and dying after a train derailment and subsequent release of toxic substances earlier this month, according to a report from The Washington Examiner.
The Feb 3 derailment caused a 150-car train to spill toxic chemicals such as vinyl chloride, phosgene, hydrogen chloride, and isobutylene into the air and water near the state’s eastern border.
Several residents have reported animals getting sick, including foxes, chickens, and fish.
Amanda Breshears, who lives roughly 11 miles outside East Palestine, found her five hens and rooster dead the day after officials ordered the chemical release.
She told a local news outlet, “My video camera footage shows my chickens were perfectly fine before they started this burn, and as soon as they started the burn, my chickens slowed down and they died.”
“If [the chemical release] can do this to chickens in one night, imagine what it’s going to do to us in 20 years,” she added.
Meanwhile, East Palestine resident Taylor Holzer reported that all four of his rescue foxes have gotten sick by apparent exposure to the chemicals, and one died in his arms.
“He went downhill very fast,” he said of one of his foxes. “He crashed so fast and unexpectedly. He wasn’t able to blink or function properly as he died in my arms.”
The derailment caused evacuations to be ordered, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been monitoring air and water quality in the area.
State officials lifted the evacuation order last Wednesday, and the EPA stated that it is safe for residents to return.
However, residents have reported concerns over the health and environmental impacts of the derailment.
Some have reported experiencing a burning sensation in their eyes and a lingering odor, and there has been an uptick in the number of dead fish and other health concerns with livestock, according to The Examiner.
The EPA stated on Sunday that they have not detected toxic chemicals at any “levels of concern,” despite residents’ concerns.
However, the EPA also stated in a letter to rail operator Norfolk Southern that chemicals from the derailed train “continue to be released into the air, surface soils, and surface waters.”
Vinyl chloride, one of the chemicals released in the derailment, is a carcinogen that becomes a gas at room temperature.
Short-term exposure to high concentrations can cause drowsiness, loss of coordination, disorientation, nausea, and headaches.
When burned, it decomposes into hydrogen chloride and phosgene.
Andrew Whelton, a professor of environmental and ecological engineering at Purdue University, stated that the spill has created multiple public health concerns due to the risks posed by both the liquids and solids that were spilled after the crash, as well as the risks posed by the combustion process, “which create a whole bunch of different byproducts.”
Whelton emphasized the need for “local, state, and federal agencies [to] take point on disasters like this,” and that they “also need to communicate what they know, when they know it, to the public. That is not happening.”
At least four class action lawsuits have been filed in the wake of the derailment.