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Ohio. Chemical train derailment. Experts warn of serious consequences

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Nearly two weeks after a train carrying toxic substances derailed in Ohio, the people of East Palestine are still waiting for an answer to the danger to their health that the accident poses. Despite the assurances of the authorities that the quality of air and drinking water is normal, there are reports of the extinction of fish and livestock. Experts warn of the long-term consequences of the disaster.

Trent Conaway, Mayor of East Palestine, Ohio, said at Wednesday’s meeting with the city’s residents that he wanted to reassure residents and hold those responsible for the train derailment to account. “Our citizens need to feel safe in their own homes,” he told those gathered in the gymnasium of the local high school.

Conaway said Norfolk Southern, the company that owned the derailed train, said it was working closely together. “They screwed up in our city and they’re going to fix it,” he said.

A derailed train in East Palestine, OhioNTSB/Xinhua News Agency/Forum

However, the company’s employees did not appear at the meeting, citing fear of physical violence. “After consulting with the leader [lokalnej – red.] community, we have grown concerned about the physical danger to our employees.

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The authorities are reassuring

The Norfolk Southern train derailed in early February in East Palestine, Ohio. Fearing a possible explosion, local officials decided to burn the toxic vinyl chloride in some of the derailed tankers.

Experts say that at the moment many potential threats remain unknown. Many residents complained of headaches, sore throats and burning eyes. There have also been reports of deaths from wild animals, fish in nearby streams and livestock.

State and federal officials, however, assured residents that they were removing the alleged soil from the accident site and that the air and water quality in the area was adequate. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine urged people living closest to the accident site to drink only bottled water.

Experts warn

Erik Olson of the Natural Resources Defense Council said the potential threats went beyond reassuring officials. It’s a very toxic mix. I haven’t seen any public estimates of how many kilograms or liters of either chemical were extracted, he said.

He pointed out that soil and groundwater pollution is a greater threat to the environment in the long term than air pollution.

State officials said there was a pollutant slick downstream of the Ohio River that was moving at a rate of one mile an hour. However, they assured that tests of drinking water showed no worrisome results, and simple treatment should remove any contaminants.

Gerald Poje, a toxicologist and one of the founders of the Chemical Safety Council, told Reuters it could be months or years before the full extent of the damage is known. – This is a terrible tragedy. It is painful to see how many lives are at risk, he said, adding that the most important challenge will be to know the full scale of the threats that currently remain unclear.

Poje and Olson warned that pollutants that have found their way into the soil could eventually lead to complaints about drinking water and wells that farmers use to water their crops.

The cause of the accident is unknown

The Norfolk Southern train, which was traveling from Illinois to Pennsylvania during the derailment, consisted of three locomotives and 150 cars. The National Transportation Safety Board said the toxic substances were in 20 cars, 10 of which derailed. The exact cause of the accident is not yet known.

One of the substances that was released as a result of the derailment was vinyl chloride, a colorless, toxic gas that is used, among other things, in the production of PVC polymer. The BBC pointed out that it is a carcinogen, and contact with it is manifested, among other things, by dizziness, headaches and drowsiness.

Main photo source: NTSB/Xinhua News Agency/Forum

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