Norfolk Southern Bails On Public Meeting After Train Derailment, Community Rage Erupts

East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway addresses members of the media as community members gather to discuss their safety and other environmental concerns at a town hall meeting following a train derailment that spilled toxic chemicals, in East Palestine, Ohio, U.S., February 15, 2023. [REUTERS/Alan Freed]

Kay Smythe News and Commentary Writer
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Norfolk Southern representatives failed to appear Wednesday at a public hearing in East Palestine, Ohio, to discuss a toxic chemical spill from one of their trains in early February.

A Norfolk Southern train carrying a number of highly toxic, carcinogenic chemicals crashed on the first Friday in February, causing a huge fire that affected thousands of residents, pets, and wildlife in the immediate vicinity. A public meeting was set to be held with representatives from the organization Wednesday, the BBC reported.

Hundreds of people gathered Wednesday at a local high school to ask officials questions about air and water quality, but the company officials pulled out at the last minute, citing security concerns and prompting outrage from residents.

Thousands of dead fish have appeared in waterways throughout the town, and residents showed local media countless dead chickens, the BBC noted. Many people have further claimed difficulty in receiving water quality testing.

“I’m just as frustrated. I live in the community, just like you,” the town’s mayor, Trent Conaway, told the crowd. “I’m trying to get answers.”

“They have something to hide. You don’t back out of questions if you know how to answer them,” East Palestine resident Jaime Cozza said, the BBC reported. “It was like a bomb went through our town.” (RELATED: ‘We Basically Nuked A Town’: Three More Chemicals Discovered At Train Derailment Site)

Residents and business owners have already filed lawsuits against the company, claiming negligence and pushing for Norfolk Southern to cover the cost of court-supervised medical screenings to track potential health impacts from exposure to vinyl chloride, hydrogen chloride, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethlyhexyl acrylate and isobutylene.

Norfolk Southern issued a statement, stating representatives of the company became “increasingly concerned about the growing physical threat.” It’s unclear why the company didn’t instead move to a remote video-conference setting where representatives could answer questions without having to risk their safety. Requests for clarification on this were not immediately answered by the firm.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to state that there is no ongoing threat to local residents, despite their health concerns.