In East Palestine, Ohio, There Remain More Questions Than Answers Following Disastrous Train Derailment

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

We reported previously on the fiery train derailment near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. The derailment, including 10 cars carrying hazardous material, occurred on Friday, February 3rd. Given the risks of explosion and toxic gas exposure presented by the wreckage, authorities ordered residents within a one-mile radius of the crash to evacuate. On Monday, the 6th, officials conducted a “controlled release” of the hazardous chemicals in order to avert a catastrophic explosion.


Five of the tankers on the train that overturned last week were carrying liquid vinyl chloride, which is extremely combustible. Last Sunday, they became unstable and threatened to explode. First responders and emergency workers had to vent the tankers, spill the vinyl chloride into a trench, and then burn it off before it turned the train into a bomb. Authorities feared that an explosion could send shrapnel up to a mile away.

But that didn’t happen. The controlled burn worked and the evacuation order for East Palestine residents was officially lifted Wednesday after real-time air and water monitoring did not find any contaminant levels above screening limits.

A week later, the saga continues. Residents (understandably) continue to question the air quality.

“All of the readings we’ve been recording in the community have been at normal concentrations, normal backgrounds, which you find in almost any community,” James Justice, a representative of the US Environmental Protection Agency, said at a briefing Wednesday.

Although authorities have assured the residents that any immediate danger has passed, some residents have yet to return home. Ratner said they’re worried about longer-term risks that environmental officials are only beginning to assess.

Real-time air readings, which use handheld instruments to broadly screen for classes of contaminants like volatile organic compounds, showed that the air quality near the site was within normal limits.

But despite those reassurances, the questions continue — particularly given reports of the effects on local wildlife.


Taylor Holzer and his family run Parker Dairy, just outside the original evacuation zone. Holzer is registered with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources as a foxkeeper.

A couple of his foxes broke their legs trying to run after the initial derailment. One of his foxes even died.

“Out of nowhere, he just started coughing really hard, just shut down, and he had liquid diarrhea and just went very fast,” says Holzer.

He says all of his foxes have been sick and acting differently since the weekend. Some have abnormally puffy faces and are not eating properly. Many are dealing with stomach issues and are acting lethargic.

It isn’t just foxes either. Fish in nearby streams have been dying.

COLUMBIANA COUNTY, Ohio (WKBN) – As more effects from the East Palestine train derailment come to light, one of the concerns of local residents has been water contamination after dead fish were found in nearby streams.

“Leslie Run comes out of East Palestine and that goes into Bull Creek, which then goes into North Fork. And we know for sure that there has been some fish kill in Leslie Run and Bull Creek, and some portions of the North Fork,” said Matthew Smith, assistant regional scenic river manager for the Division of Natural Areas and Preserves.

WKBN went out to these areas and was able to spot some dead fish in Leslie Run and Bull Creek.

A woman in North Lima, approximately 10 miles from the wreck, reported finding her chickens dead, which she attributes to the chemicals in the air.

NORTH LIMA, Ohio (WKBN) – People across the Mahoning Valley — including those who live in Mahoning and Trumbull counties — reported smelling chlorine after Monday’s controlled release in East Palestine. Officials said it wasn’t dangerous, but one North Lima woman is skeptical about that statement.

Even though North Lima is a little more than 10 miles away from East Palestine, Amanda Breshears said the smell caused her eyes to water when she went to let her dog out. She believes it could be the reason why her birds are now dead.

Breshears was going to feed her five hens and rooster Tuesday morning when she discovered them all lifeless, practically in the same position, with no signs of a predator entering their enclosure.


Then, too, there was the bizarre arrest of a NewsNation reporter during a press conference.

WFMJ-TV is reporting that the case will be handled by the Ohio Attorney General, citing a statement from Vito Abruzzino, the Columbiana County Prosecuting Attorney:

As additional information concerning the arrest and charging of Mr. Evan Lambert-McMichael became available, it was readily apparent that the incident involves not only local entities here in Columbiana County, but multiple State of Ohio agencies, including the Ohio State Highway Patrol and the Ohio National Guard.

Given the complex nature of the parties involved, and in coordination with local and state officials, the matter concerning the arrest of Mr. Evan Lambert-McMichael will be forwarded and handled by the Office of the Ohio Attorney General (OAG), Dave Yost, and their Special Prosecutions Division. We will work diligently with the OAG’s Office to ensure they have all necessary information, evidence, and materials required for a prompt review.

Per the affidavit filed by East Palestine Police Detective Dan Haueter, the 34-year-old Lambert was booked and charged with resisting arrest and criminal trespass. The affidavit avers that Lambert began arguing with authorities after he was asked to end his live reporting and was told to leave the gym.


Lambert’s colleagues have a different account, noting that he complied with orders and ended his live shot. Four officers approached Lambert, who explained he was doing the live shot in accordance with the rules. After saying, “Don’t touch me,” Lambert was forcibly removed from the gym and taken to the ground. While the affidavit claims Lambert moved toward a National Guard general who then pushed Lambert away, video of the incident does not appear to support this characterization:

Asked about the arrest shortly afterward, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine stated that it shouldn’t have happened. His colleague Joe Khalil further attested to Lambert’s character and his strong relationship with law enforcement.

Even Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) has weighed in on the disaster and its aftermath:

As for the remaining questions from residents, the Village of East Palestine is hosting a town hall on Wednesday evening.




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