East Palestine train derailment is sad, but familiar situation


Kendal Manns, Editor-in-Chief

On Feb. 3, a train carrying toxic chemicals near East Palestine, Ohio, derailed and crashed around 8:54 p.m. Out of the 50 cars operated by Norfolk Southern, 11 of the cars transported hazardous materials. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes for Health, five of the cars contained vinyl chloride.
In just five days, city officials deemed the air and water to be safe prompting the lifting of the evacuation order. Unfortunately, it appears that mainstream media has almost completely glossed over what some deem as potentially “one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history.”
The media has the power to make a real difference when it comes to making people aware of things going on and so far they are failing in that regard. A disaster like this can have some very serious impacts on the inhabitants of East Palestine and other places that can be affected by the Ohio River, which has a high chance of being contaminated as well. Some impacts can already been seen as nearly “3,500 fish ranging across 12 species have died from the water contamination washing down streams and rivers,” according to CNN.
Per usual, the U.S. is not treating this like the big environmental issue it is. The immense potential of people that can be affected by this in the years to come are insane just to think about it. Just a few of the chemicals that have been listed to be on the train are: ethyl acrylate, butyl acrylate, ethylhexyl acrylate and ethylene glycol monobutyl. These chemicals have also been detected in samples from several of the creeks near the site.
Outside of just those chemicals, East Palestinian residents also need to worry about PFAS. PFAS are long-lasting and potentially worse class of chemicals than the ones already contaminating East Palestine. These specific chemicals are used to put out chemical fires, do not break down naturally and are linked to higher levels of some cancers.
Now with all that information, does this still sound like something that does not deserve to be in the news constantly?
I believe we as a nation are being more reactionary than anything else. Think about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. It initially occurred in April of 2014 and the city is still feeling the effects. Residents have been crying out for years for aid and despite help being given the city is still pleading for clean water. I fear that in the years to come East Palestine will be the same way.
Not only are the long term effects of the derailment alarming, but maybe even more so is the way the authorities have been arresting reporters that are trying to cover what is going on. For example, correspondent for NewsNation Evan Lambert was arrested on Feb. 8 during an event where Gov. Mike DeWine was giving an update on the accident. After being held in jail for about five hours, Lambert shed light on the dark reality of his situation.
“No journalist expects to be arrested when you’re doing your job, and I think that’s really important that that doesn’t happen in our country,” he said.
So now not only is this story flying under the radar, but those who are trying to do their job and inform the public of what is going on are being reprimanded for doing so. This is an injustice to journalism and those that are and will be affected by this for years to come.
Environmental catastrophes like this are not taken seriously until it is too late. Why do we have to wait until people are dying for the government and the wider mainstream media to take this seriously. Something about how quickly officials told residents they could return back to their homes just does not sit right with me. If I was one of the residents, I would be hesitant to return back home so soon, especially with so many different chemicals and pollutants still being present in the air and water.
My hope is that people, government officials and media alike will start paying more attention to this situation which is definitely far from over. With the potential contamination through water and air spreading miles away in all four directions, there has to be more attention brought to the ongoing situation. The residents of East Palestine deserve better.