Tensions boiled over Thursday in East Palestine, Ohio, after Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw failed to turn up to a public hearing on his company’s train derailment.
As previously reported, a Norfolk Southern freight train carrying hazardous materials derailed on Feb. 3rd and the subsequent fire unleashed toxic chemicals into the air.
Since that event, there have been several public hearings/town halls to address the concerns of local residents, but Shaw hasn’t appeared at them.
During the last event, which occurred two weeks after the incident, Norfolk Southern abruptly pulled out at the last minute because of alleged threats to officials.
It was déjà vu all over again on Thursday when Shaw again skipped the hearing, preferring this time to send in some of his representatives.
Locals were not pleased.
Residents line up to ask questions of officials in #EastPalestine town hall. Quite a bit of yelling from the audience. pic.twitter.com/wYekEjuDNz
— Jacob Brooks (@newswithjacob) March 3, 2023
“At one point, someone in the crowd could be heard asking, ‘Where’s Alan?’ Another person passed out T-shirts mocking the company’s logo, rebranding it as ‘Nofolk sufferin’ and replacing the logo’s horse with a broken train,” The New York Times reported.
The lone representatives were, meanwhile, forced to face the brunt of the people’s anger.
“As Darrell Wilson, a top government relations official for Norfolk Southern, tried repeatedly to apologize to the community and outline the company’s recovery efforts, residents interrupted and shouted over him, demanding that he commit to getting them out of the area, and that the company ‘do the right thing,” according to the Times.
“Evacuate us!” one resident reportedly yelled.
“Get my grandchildren out of here! If you care about us, get our grandkids out,” another resident added.
“How long is that going to take, I’m watching my family slowly dying in front of my eyes? It’s been a month,” one angry mother asked.
Another woman said the derailment has affected her on “every level.”
“This has touched my family, this has touched my friends, this has touched my farm, this has touched my animals, this has touched my finances, and this has touched my home. And it will touch me to the cellular level when I get diagnosed with cancer or ALS or whatever is going to come down the road if I stay in this contaminated, toxic town. And you all know it. Norfolk is a goliath and we are no match,” she said.
Technically, the evacuation order for East Palestine was lifted a month ago. However, many residents argue that it’s still not safe there, and the evidence suggests they’re right.
This East Palestine resident, Wade Lovett, told the @nypost his voice ‘sounds like Mickey Mouse’ now. pic.twitter.com/wyAtHVxNzJ
— Paul Aubert (@_paulaubert) February 26, 2023
New shocking footage from East Palestine, Ohio with industrial hygienist Stephen E. Petty, showing more chemicals in water and soil sediments. And this was supposedly in water that I’ve already been cleaned. No wonder no one trusts what the government is saying! The fear now is… https://t.co/DqwvJMZKvk pic.twitter.com/edCTbZKZsW
— Ben Bergquam – Real America’s Voice (RAV-TV) News (@BenBergquam) February 28, 2023
Also in attendance at the town hall on Thursday was a representative from the Environmental Protection Agency.
According to the Daily Mail, “Several residents also complained at the town hall meeting that they were struggling to get someone to their homes to tests (sic) for chemicals, despite the EPA representative saying the agency has tested nearly 600 homes.”
“The EPA Region 5’s number one priority is and always will be the health and safety in communities across the region and those that live here,” the representative said.
She added that the EPA is monitoring air quality at 16 stations in East Palestine and that so far the agency has “not detected any volatile compounds above levels of health concern in the community that are attributed to the train derailment.”
This particular line provoked heavy backlash and boos.
“Don’t lie to us!” one man yelled.
Another man from a nearby town claimed his skin fell off after he touched a soil machine.
“DON’T LIE TO US!”: Residents of East Palestine, Ohio clashed with Norfolk Southern representatives at a town hall meeting Thursday night. ABC’s Derricke Dennis has the details. pic.twitter.com/l2QSVZRWS6
— ABC World News Now (@abcWNN) March 3, 2023
One longtime resident, Josh, said that his family has been unable to return to their home despite the evacuation order being lifted. As a result, his five-member family has been forced to sleep on a single air mattress at his brother’s home.
“I can’t afford to go nowhere. Why? Because I have a home, I own it. I’ve put my life into it. You know just like we know, what happened here was catastrophic. It’s not going to get better overnight. We have people living here. Do you live here?” he said.
“If this happened to your grandchildren or your children, you’d pull them [out of here], but you’re letting people stay here or you’re covering it up. The reality is we got to get out…You can’t leave here while it’s happening, because it’s not going to get better until it’s gone,” he added.
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