The Disaster That Wants To Be Quiet- The Ohio Derailment

The Disaster That Wants To Be Quiet- The Ohio Derailment

On February 3rd, the small town of East Palestine, Ohio suffered an event that on its own was scary enough, but its handling sparked even more discomfort- not just to the town, but to the whole country.

A 150-car train was passing through a small border town in Ohio when it suddenly derailed, taking out around 30 of the cars. While much of the cargo was general items, a third of the derailed cars were carrying vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate, and other similar chemicals. 

Vinyl chloride is typically a substance used in PVC piping but it can cause issues with breathing, headaches, and dizziness. Furthermore, prolonged exposure to the substance has been associated with cancer. Meanwhile, butyl acrylate is a substance used heavily in paint that can cause headaches similar to vinyl chloride, but also irritation to the respiratory system. 

After first responders arrived and dealt with the damages and fire caused by the derailment, it was decided that due to the tanks’ high volatility, the chemicals would be released and burned in a controlled fire. With residents in and around the town evacuated, the chemicals were dumped into a trench and burned. This meant that the risk of the chemicals unexpectedly exploding and causing even greater damage was contained, but it still resulted in an ominous black plume of smoke that has been heavily covered in the media since.

5 days after the crash on February 8th, the fires were finally put out and citizens were allowed to return home. However, the issue was not finished yet. While the air and water around the town were confirmed by officials to be safe, some people still report strong smells and symptoms of exposure to the burned chemicals. Whether simply mass hysteria or genuine aftereffects, many brought up questions during a public meeting with state and local officials. The assurance of safety from officials, though, brought little comfort, if even more questions amongst those there.

Apart from thousands of fish perishing after the fire, as of February 17th, there are citizens telling of some pets getting sick or dying after everything. These reports are contested, however, if true, puts the East Palestine government in a hot seat.

Already under mass scrutiny though is Norfolk Southern, the company responsible for handling the train that derailed. Many different reports tell of the company’s faltering in preventing the situation, including mechanical issues in the train, signs of overheating before the train derailed, chemical tanks not being labeled hazardous, and previous accidents of the train involved. 

All of this has not only caused Norfolk Southern to take a massive hit in reputation but has caused some lawmen to bring up new propositions for railway management to congress. These propositions include freight trains requiring crews of at least two, defect-detecting equipment being regularly maintained,  and better funding for Ohio rail development, which has the fifth-highest rail traffic in the U.S.

The detail about this case however that makes it so concerning is the press response. That is, how the press is nervous, if not outraged, to take on the case after what happened to one Evan Lambert of NewsNation, on February 8th. During a press conference in which the Ohio governor Mike DeWine was present, Lambert was giving a news brief about the situation to TV, before being shoved to the ground and arrested on the charges of ‘disorderly conduct’ and ‘criminal trespassing’, both of which are misdemeanors. Though later dismissed of his charges, the incident resulted in a false spread in the media that any reporter on the case will be arrested. While untrue, the fact of a reporter being arrested at all causes appropriate concern in the public and adds to the list of strange details in this case.

With all of this in mind, it’s understandable why many are calling the official response a coverup. Though little evidence to support it, there are enough oddities to cause anyone to be curious about what’s happening in Ohio.

Either way, what’s going on has caused some to call the situation “America’s Chernobyl.” With the ominous black cloud and chemical sickness, it’s no wonder. All we can hope is that it resolves soon and keeps from getting any worse, letting it drift away into a strange memory- one of many in the 2020s.