A first responder who assisted the community near the Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, said in an interview with The Daily Wire that colleagues and residents are experiencing health issues after officials conducted a controlled burn of hazardous materials at the crash site.
Local and state authorities evacuated all residents within one mile of the crash and started a controlled burn of spilled industrial chemicals to decrease the risk of an explosion. Vinyl chloride, a carcinogen that can contaminate water supplies, was released from five train cars in the form of massive plumes of dark smoke visible throughout eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, raising worries about air and water quality in the Ohio River Basin.
“A large number of firefighters, police officers, sheriff’s deputies, and state troopers have experienced many symptoms including a bad cough, headaches, sore throat, and diarrhea,” recounted the first responder, whose identity was confirmed by The Daily Wire but who wishes to remain unnamed. “The same symptoms were reported by residents who did not evacuate.”
The first responder added that he and other members of his department were “encouraged to have a full physical and blood work done by our family doctors just in case any exposure could lead to lifelong ailments.” He personally experienced a cough, sore throat, and diarrhea that subsided two days after he was near the site on February 6 and February 7.
Norfolk Southern, as well as state and federal environmental authorities, publicly said that water supply tests have not revealed concerning levels of hazardous material. When asked about widely circulated reports regarding wildlife and farm animals dying in the days after the controlled burn, the first responder commented that he has “heard stories about dead fish being found in the basin near the crash scene.”
The Ohio Department of Agriculture on Monday told The Daily Wire that the “food supply is safe and the risk to livestock remains low,” adding that the agency has not “received any official reports regarding the wellness of animals related to the incident.”
The first responder was present at the East Palestine Community Center, slightly more than one mile away from the crash site, when officials started the controlled burn.
“When it first exploded, a dark gray mushroom-like cloud appeared overhead and colored the sky the same color,” he described. “It was unlike anything I have ever seen.”
Beyond the controlled burn of vinyl chloride, Norfolk Southern warned officials at the Environmental Protection Agency that a number of other volatile industrial chemicals were released at the derailment site. One train car containing ethylene glycol monobutyl ether presently has an “unknown status,” according to Norfolk Southern, while the amount of ethylhexyl acrylate in another car is still “pending.” The former substance can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness, while the latter has been identified as a carcinogen in laboratory experiments.
Lawmakers have expressed concern over the incident, called for investigations, and floated the need for new railroad safety regulations. The derailment in East Palestine appears to have been caused by a malfunctioning car axle that was on fire or shooting sparks, as indicated by footage of the train captured by security cameras as far as 20 miles away from the crash site.