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Both Ohio senators say News 5/Scripps News survey of East Palestine residents matches what they see

Sherrod Brown, JD Vance
Posted at 4:58 PM, Mar 16, 2023

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — Ohio’s senators are now reacting to our first-ever independent community survey in East Palestine. They say the results we got line up with what they’ve seen on the ground.

News 5 Investigators and Scripps News asked more than 100 people about the government’s response, their health and finances after the toxic train derailment on Feb. 3. 

Sen. JD Vance says there’s a lot of mistrust, and Sen. Sherrod Brown says people are suspicious for good reason.

News 5 heard the same in East Palestine covering this story for nearly six weeks.

The senators say it’ll take a lot to restore confidence.

Seventy percent told us they do not think the drinking water is safe, despite state and federal leaders saying it is.

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

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

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

More than half said their health has been impacted with headaches, coughs and nausea as common symptoms.

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54% of respondents say their physical health has been impacted by the derailment.

"They're not surprising to me, they're certainly consistent with what I see on the ground in East Palestine, which is a lot of people just don't trust their government, they don't trust the EPA and they don't trust Norfolk Southern,” Vance said.

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Survey responses asking residents to rate their satisfaction with Norfolk Southern and various government agencies and groups.

"We've heard the EPA from Columbus and Washington both say the drinking water is safe in the city and the village of East Palestine but people who have individual water wells are more suspicious and they need to be tested over and over for that,” Brown said.

Brown says he’s heard from farmers about local customers worried about buying their beef. 

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

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

Vance says the only way to give people confidence is to first finish the cleanup.

“We've got to get the toxic mounds of dirt out of East Palestine into properly licensed facilities," Vance said.

There’s a 26,700-ton pile of soil waiting for removal, according to Governor DeWine’s office. 

About 6.7 million gallons of liquid wastewater have been hauled out. 

Senator Vance says people shouldn’t trust the current response.

“People have every right to be frustrated, every right to be terrified and until you finish that cleanup you are never going to be able to rebuild this community in the way it deserves,” Vance said.

"It's going to take a while but we need Norfolk Southern to step up and do its job instead of the CEO coming in front of our committee and saying, 'I'm going to do what's right,' whatever that means,” Brown said.

Brown and Vance have introduced legislation to enhance rail safety. It would, in part, increase rail car safety inspections and require disclosure to states about what’s on board so first responders know what they could be up against. 

Watch our report on the rail safety bill below:

Ohio senators ready rail safety bill after fiery crash

RELATED: Ohio senators ready rail safety bill after fiery crash

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