East Palestine Grandfather Says Government Officials Are ‘Lying’ About Safety After Train Wreck

(Photo by Michael Swensen/Getty Images)

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Alexa Schwerha Contributor
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An East Palestine, Ohio, resident alleged in a Monday opinion article published in The Guardian that government officials who say that the town is safe after the Norfolk Southern train derailment are lying.

A Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous material including vinyl chloride derailed on Feb. 3, and a controlled burn was performed on Feb. 6 to prevent an explosion, officials said. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and politicians have repeatedly insisted that the air and water quality are not above levels of concern, but Greg Mascher, a resident, is worried about his family’s health, according to the op-ed(RELATED: ‘Evacuate Us!’: Tensions Boil Over Between East Palestine Residents And Norfolk Southern At Town Hall)

“On [Feb. 5,] the EPA officials said that they did not detect any contaminants in the air. But my granddaughters had developed blotches all over their bodies. They looked like burns, as if they’d spent too much time next to a sun lamp. My seven-year-old granddaughter’s leg was beet-red,” Mascher wrote, describing his family’s reaction to the derailment. “They were coughing and their eyes were burning. I began to experience constant headaches and a nagging cough.”

The rashes faded after the family evacuated to an inn outside of town, but the coughing persisted, Mascher wrote. He recounted that his headaches return whenever he goes back to East Palestine to check on his house and that he has lost 15 pounds due to “stress and anxiety.”

“It’s now been six weeks since the wreck. I dread night-time because when I lie down to sleep the constant coughing starts,” he wrote. “My wife of 35 years woke me up recently because my breathing was so bad; she said I sounded like I had fluid in my lungs. Other people are having similar experiences. The ER doctors say it is chemical bronchitis.”

A handwritten sign is on display outside a flower shop located on Market Street on February 14, 2023 in East Palestine, Ohio.

A handwritten sign is on display outside a flower shop located on Market Street on February 14, 2023 in East Palestine, Ohio. (Photo by Angelo Merendino/Getty Images)

The EPA conducted 623 indoor screenings and monitors the air at 23 locations, according to its Sunday press release. It has not detected signs of “vinyl chloride or hydrogen chloride.”

The EPA is expected to release the final results from soil sampling conducted at 102 properties in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and preliminary analysis of the data “indicates levels of semi-volatile organic chemicals and dioxins in the samples are similar to typical background levels,” the press release reads.

Residents are reporting symptoms including headaches, anxiety, coughing, fatigue or tiredness and skin irritation or pain, according to an Ohio Department of Health survey. First responders reported stuffy noses and congestion, runny noses, increased congestion and phlegm, burning noses or throats, and hoarseness.

“ODH has been and will continue to be concerned with the health and wellbeing of the community of East Palestine. This is why we have worked to set up the ACE surveys and health assessment clinic, to both monitor for trends in the community and be there to support needs,” Megan Smith, ODH public information officer, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

The ODH will also “transitioning the East Palestine Health Assessment Clinic, in partnership with East Liverpool City Hospital, to a permanent location in East Palestine during the week of April 10, 2023,” Smith said.

“I don’t believe the government or railway company’s claims that our town is safe. You hate to say that they’re lying, but they are. Some families don’t plan to come back at all. That breaks my heart. We have such a tight-knit community here,” Mascher wrote. “At this point the best-case scenario is that they get this town really cleaned up to the point where independent scientists say it’s safe. If we have real assurance, and stop experiencing symptoms, perhaps the town can start to return to normal.”

The EPA and Mascher did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

This article has been updated with comment from the Ohio Department of Health.

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