Thirteen days ago on February 3, a Norfolk Southern train carrying toxic materials derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. Fearing an explosion naturally occurring from the contaminants, a decision was made to have a “controlled burn.” Contaminants have now filled the air and covered surface waters and soil with chemicals.
I am not suggesting the “controlled burn” caused problems. What will be may be even if there was no decision to burn.
Already dead fish are floating in nearby creeks and an uncommon aroma lingers in the air. Dead fish and cattle have been reported as far as 100 miles away.
The people living in East Palestine and nearby are scared. Furiously so. Properly so.
The EPA says air quality has returned to safe levels. The head of the EPA has said worry not. We’ll make sure those responsible will be held responsible. People could care less at the moment who is responsible. They want to live safely now and have the assurances that everything is normal.
The people have been told the water is ok. Why then are they being told to drink bottled water?
I know that of which I write today. It was my specialty as an environmental attorney. Major environmental contamination cases. Superfund cases.
The East Palestine case involves one difference, however. The problem is obvious at its beginnings. Not 20 or 50 years from now. Death and sickness is down the road. In most instances, years from now. However the opportunity exists for the government to get in on the ground floor and do something. Now! What, I do not know. But this is the time.
EPA and the Department of Transportation will say all tests indicate nary a problem. Of course. Problems do not rear their sick ugly heads for years. The odd taste in the water, the smell in the air — will all disappear. The danger not.
The contaminants will lie smoldering beneath the earth, in the water and in the air. Breeding and growing. Silently poisoning everything. Making people sick. Leukemia generally associated with such matters. Some next generation babies will be born without arms or legs.
I kid you not.
Today is the time for the EPA and Department of Transportation to get deeply involved. Most, if not all, of the tests they have run were created to discover problems that long existed. Not new ones as in East Palestine.
Buttigieg and the EPA must form a special group to deal with East Palestine. New everything required. Engineers must be able to think outside the box. East Palestine is a new day. Preventive everything required. Especially to prevent the ultimate consequences that normally follow years later.
The media says this is another Chernobyl. It’s not. It is Love Canal, with one difference. Hooker Chemicals wrongdoing in dumping chemicals into a landfill near a Niagara Falls neighborhood was not discovered till years later. After a whole neighborhood of homes had been abandoned, people died, got sick, etc.
I was not involved in Love Canal. It was the first major Superfund case. My case was the second largest. Involved a landfill. On behalf of my two clients, I sued 603 other potentially responsible parties. I exclusively handled such cases for the next 20 years. I share this information only to make you aware I know what I am talking about. I also had a distant peripheral matter involving Chernobyl. A baby girl born with half of one arm gone. From the elbow down.
I briefly share the facts of the Chernobyl matter to show how a toxic contaminant does its dirty deed years later. The mother came to me with the child. Her husband worked within 10 miles of Chernobyl. They later met and married. Came to the U.S. Fourteen years later, the wife became pregnant and gave birth to the one armed baby. The cause was the husband’s semen. It had been affected by the contaminants in the water and/or air at Chernobyl. His semen making equipment became defective and 14 years later their malformed child born.
See how long it can take for a toxic contaminant to be reflected in a person’s life!
The government got into Love Canal too late. The EPA ended up demolishing a whole neighborhood. Took to 2004. The contamination took place in the 1970’s.
Bottom line, the EPA and Department of Transportation must get involved now. Actually, yesterday. Understanding that East Palestine is different because it is new. Current. Otherwise people will get sick, some terribly sick, die, babies born malformed, etc.
In conclusion, permit me to make another point. I could be completely wrong. However my gut tells me I am right. I am sure there are others who did or do the work I did who would agree.