The Train

February 17, 2023

I feel like I should say something about the toxic chemical spill from the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, but I don’t know what to say. Is it bad or is it really bad or is it really really bad? The reports of people in the area continue to be at variance to what public officials are saying.

On February 3rd, during the night, a train carrying vinyl chloride and other chemicals derailed, causing a toxic spill in a rural area of northeastern Ohio. People within a mile of the derailment were evacuated immediately. Then a few days later, the evacuation area was three miles.

Toxic gases were intentionally released into the air soon after the spill, and a few days later a “controlled burn” of the chemicals was executed. This released a mushroom cloud of toxins. The purported justification of the burn was to avoid an explosion. Now some have suggested that it was done to open the railroad as soon as possible.

Two days after the burn, residents were told they could return home, with local officials warning them not to drink the water for a day. They returned to an apocalyptic landscape, with thousands of dead fish in the water. The fumes burned their throats and their stock animals were sick or dying or dead. Wildlife also died, and the birds left. Residents were told a few days later that the water was safe to drink and no chemicals were detected in the air. But the smell, the dead animals, and the nausea they experienced have made the public mistrusting of officials.

While sympathies go out to the communities near East Palestine, the proximity of the spill to the Ohio River is the bigger concern. Vinyl Chloride is a chemical that takes a very very very long time to degrade. Like, not in your or my lifetime. How this will affect the health and ecology of Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Indiana is unknown. The biggest unknown is what chemicals exactly were released during the burn.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, the Biden administration, the EPA, and the corporate media offer reassurances that the area of the spill is safe and so is the Ohio River watershed. The reports of people on the ground, including journalists who have traveled to the area, differ.

Here is Erin Brockovich talking about the spill. Listen to the first seven minutes or so at least.