EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — National activists are now making their way to East Palestine. Friday night, famed environmental advocate Erin Brockovich hosted a town hall meeting, warning families there to brace for the health, environmental and legal implications of the February 3 train derailment.
She was part of a team calling itself ‘East Palestine Justice,’ made up of activists, attorneys and science and medical experts. Much of the group has years of experience helping communities exposed to environmental dangers.
“My name is Erin Brockovich. I’m not Julia Roberts,” opened Brockovich, whose activism inspired the movie with her namesake. “I wanted to make you laugh a little because it’s awfully stressful for all of you. I know that.”
She addressed a large audience in the auditorium at East Palestine High School Friday evening, cautioning them to brace for a long battle.
“Some of the things you’re going to hear tonight are going to scare you. But I have learned and communities know - ‘give me that worst-case scenario’ - because if I don’t know what that is, I can’t make plans and I can’t be prepared,” Brockovich said.
The team of specialists recommended everyone within 50 miles of the derailment site have their blood and urine tested for traces of toxic chemicals. Some of the Norfolk Southern cars were carrying hazardous materials, including vinyl chloride. Scientists said some of the health and environmental effects could take years to manifest.
“They emphasized this is going to be a long haul. And I think it is. And I think people my age will be gone,” said Michele Weaver, who lives about 20 miles from the derailment site and attended Friday’s town hall meeting.
East Palestine resident Christine Allison told News 5 after the meeting, “I’m going to cry, I swear. I’m so upset.”
She and her husband said the information they got from the town hall made them second guess the “official” declaration that the town and its soil and water are safe.
“They were telling us everything’s safe,” Allison said. “And they’re bringing out specialists that say they don’t feel that way.”
Garry Allison added, “It’s night and day.”
The attorneys at the meeting recommended thoroughly documenting everything to build future legal cases against Norfolk Southern.
“You own this narrative, not an agency that wasn’t here and certainly not Norfolk,” Brockovich said, encouraging residents to band together and advocate for themselves.
Many in the area said they’re conflicted about whether they should stay in town or relocate.
“They said your health and your safety is that important. And it is more than anything. And we’re raising a granddaughter. Do we really want her to live here?” Christine Allison said.
Garry Allison added, “It’s not like everybody can put a for sale sign on their home and people will rush in here to purchase our homes.”
The team, including Brockovich, pledged to be back in town to help the residents.
CLICK HERE to read News 5's continuing coverage of the East Palestine train derailment.
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