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53% of people surveyed in East Palestine said finances were impacted after toxic train derailment

As for mental health, one word kept coming up: anxiety
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Posted at 4:31 PM, Mar 14, 2023

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — Some people lost money after being unable to work in East Palestine after the toxic train derailment last month; others tell News 5 Investigators they just can’t pack up and leave.

News 5 collaborated with Scripps News for the first-ever independent community survey in East Palestine since the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train and subsequent burn-off of some of the toxic chemicals it was carrying.

In our survey, we asked people about everything from the government’s response to the Feb. 3 train derailment to their physical and mental health and financial hardships.

RELATED: News 5/Scripps News Survey: 70% of East Palestine area residents refuse to use tap water 5 weeks after crash

People want to be able to provide for their families where they feel safe.

More than 100 people participated in our survey and more than half live within the village limits. People told us they felt anxious, fearful and scared about what’s next. The word "anxiety" was used most often.

"Just frustration more than anything. It's just the unknown, I just don't know if there's a future here anymore,” Dan Cozza said.

News 5 Investigators met Cozza one month after the derailment. He’s called East Palestine home for nearly 53 years and owns five houses, mostly rental property.

"I don't know what the future holds. My business could be ruined,” Cozza said.

In our survey, we asked if the derailment impacted finances — 46% said yes and 54% said no.

But when we looked closer at just those inside East Palestine city limits, the number was much higher.

The responses about finances ranged from delayed to missed work.

Joe Samek started a repair shop in his own garage four years ago.

"I'm not making as much as I used to and struggling to make ends meet,” Samek said.

People also worry about their home values. One realtor told us it will take at least six months to know the market impact. But some feel trapped.

"I don't see a choice that I have to leave,” Sue Dunlap said. Dunlap has lived in East Palestine for 21 years. 

"We own the house we can't leave. And God knows how much it's worth now,” Dunlap said.

Regarding whether people’s physical health was impacted, more than half said yes with headaches as a common symptom.

Our survey showed a 60% of respondents have had mental health impacts from the derailment, with 40% saying no, they haven't.

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60% of East Palestine residents say their mental health has been impacted by the trail derailment.

People also worry about their livestock and pets.

Twenty-seven of the people we talked to said their animal’s health has been impacted.

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Of the people we surveyed, 27 of them said the health of their pets has been impacted by the train derailment.

They reported congestion, sluggishness and coughing in their animals.

John McGonigal says his dog is sick.

"We just had him to the vet the day. Before he was in great shape; now he hacks all day,” McGonigal said.

McGonigal relocated to East Palestine just four months before the sudden change in the village outlook.

"We moved here to retire to be safe. That didn't happen, did it?" McGonigal said.

People also still don’t trust the drinking water in East Palestine, despite local, state and federal leaders saying it’s safe.

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Only 30% of respondents feel the water in East Palestine is safe to drink.

Watch the first part of our investigation into the East Palestine resident survey results below:

Most East Palestine residents surveyed still don't believe water is safe

RELATED: News 5/Scripps News Survey: 70% of East Palestine area residents refuse to use tap water 5 weeks after crash

Explore and compare more survey responses below:

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