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Residents frustrated, demanding straight answers one month after East Palestine train derailment

Norfolk Southern removing tracks, dioxin testing required
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Posted at 5:57 PM, Mar 03, 2023

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — There's new information about the Norfolk Southern train derailment and controlled chemical burn one month after the disaster unfolded in East Palestine. The train, carrying toxic chemicals, derailed on Feb. 3.

News 5 Investigator Tara Morgan has been following this story from the beginning and returned to the village to get answers about the train’s route, the clean-up and chemical testing.

One month later, the need for supplies and answers is strong in East Palestine.

"It reminds us that it could be any one of us at any point,” said Dr. Tracy Elder of the International Alliance of Community Chaplains.

On Friday, lines for supplies stretched down neighborhood streets in all directions.

"It's a blessing, these people are so wonderful,” said resident Dan Pumphrey while waiting in line for donated supplies.

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An East Palestine resident carries a box of donated cleaning supplies.

Behind First United Presbyterian Church, pallets of water were being removed from a truck, and people were packing up canned goods, cleaning solutions and dog food to give out.

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A palette of donated bottled water is unloaded from a truck in East Palestine.

"I wanted the dog food,” Rick Rosenbaum said.

The donations were from Good Samaritans and businesses.

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Buckets and boxes of donated supplies wait to be picked up by East Palestine residents.

"They're not here because they want a handout, they're here because they need it,” Elder said.

Not far from there, the familiar sound of a train passing through can be heard.

The cleanup by Norfolk Southern was underway. The railway is hauling away tracks and soil from the derailment site.

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Rails are being removed and cleanup continues one month after a train carrying toxic chemicals derailed in East Palestine, Ohio.

One month later, we still don't know the exact train route, although we do know it went through Cleveland. The NTSB tells News 5 Investigators they haven't put together a timeline yet but they do have all of the recorder and imaging data and will sync that to come up with a sequence of events.

In East Palestine, the disruption is keeping people up at night. One woman shared a door camera video showing night truck traffic.

"I'm worried about all the trains dragging everything up and down, all the dust and all that going over into Pennsylvania and back through our town again. What are they kicking up?” Dan Cozza said.

The EPA is now ordering Norfolk Southern to test for highly toxic and cancer-causing dioxins.

Sampling hasn’t started yet and people in East Palestine say it should have happened from the very start.

"Oh, absolutely yes,” said, Cozza, who will call the village home for 53 years this summer.

He owns five houses in the one-mile zone, including four rentals.

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

We also wanted to know more about the decision behind the chemical burn early on.

The EPA says it did not order it, stating that the local fire chief, who was the incident commander, made the decision with Norfolk Southern, local law enforcement and Ohio response officials.

"I wake up, my chest is hurting, my throat is clogged up, my ears, I'm coughing,” Cozza said.

One month later, people tell News 5 Investigators there should be health screenings for a baseline so down the road doctors can look back and compare.

Cozza says he’s had his symptoms for the last month, although medication has helped.

But what is the prescription for frustration and uneasiness about the future here?

"I think it's going to be a ghost town again someday soon,” Cozza said.

The EPA says Norfolk Southern must submit all of its cleanup work plans to them. If they don't like what they see, they'll modify, and if Norfolk Southern fails, the EPA will step in and make Norfolk Southern pay triple the cost.

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