EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WJW) — Almost two weeks after the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train, East Palestine residents on Wednesday hoped to get more answers to some of their lingering questions about the contamination of their air and groundwater.
Perhaps the most visibly concerning event was the controlled burn on Feb. 6 of vinyl chloride from five of the 38 cars that derailed.
The measure sent a massive plume of toxic smoke high into the atmosphere and mandated evacuations within a one-mile-wide, two-mile-long area around the derailment site for days.
But Nick Izotic and his wife Kellie are just as concerned about what the community might have been exposed to in the days following the crash, before the controlled burn.
The derailment touched off a massive blaze as much as a half-mile long along the railroad through East Palestine.
Norfolk Southern has since revealed there were additional toxic chemicals being transported in other cars on the train.
Izotic, who lives two miles north of the site, said he started noticing foul chemical odors and dead fish in the creek that runs through his property soon after the crash.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has placed remote sensors throughout the area to provide real time readings of air quality, measuring for toxins in the atmosphere.
Izotic shared a video with FOX 8 News of a similar box that was attached to a post near his home the weekend before the controlled burn — in which the box was flashing an alarm.
“We are two miles away and we are north. Well, guess what? My creek is still contaminated. We are having high pH levels in my water. The Sunday after the incident, there was dead fish in my water,” said Izotic.
His wife, Kellie, works for a laboratory, so they are conducting their own tests of their soil and the water on their property.
He showed FOX 8 News an obvious oily sheen still on top of the creek running through his property on Wednesday, nearly two weeks following the derailment.
Izotic said while collecting samples, his wife stepped in the creek and later that night developed a rash on her foot.
“I am now getting a rash and a reaction on my face and that didn’t happen until after we came home; after we got the ‘A-OK’ to do so,” said Izotic.
He is concerned about chemicals eventually leaching into their well water, and for his dog and stepson playing in the creek.
Izotic said he plans on having routine testing for years to come at the 14-acre property he bought as a long-term homestead in East Palestine.
But if anyone were to want to make a case that something odd is happening in East Palestine, the one place they might be able to do that is at the Columbiana County Humane Society in Salem, 30 minutes away.
The humane society cleared out its adoptable pets to make room for animals from East Palestine during the evacuation order, and sheltered as many as 27 pets during that time.
It has also become a clearing house for the many concerns from pet owners in East Palestine over the health of their pets.
“We are getting symptoms from vomiting, no appetite, not wanting to drink, not eating, being very lethargic, laying around, not acting right — all the way up to neurological symptoms and others recommending euthanasia, due to suffering,” said Columbiana County Humane Society Director Teresa McGuire.
McGuire said she knows of a dog owner who took his pet to a veterinarian in Pennsylvania where it had to be euthanized, and another resident who had his pet euthanized because he simply could not afford the care.
She said she knows of an opossum that was found dead in a creek, perhaps where it went to get a drink of water.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has already documented an estimated 3,500 fish, many of them small, that died over a 7 1/2-mile stretch of waterways around the city.
Crews on Wednesday continued to monitor creeks through the city, replacing booms across the tributaries to capture chemicals in the water, pumping and filtering water from the creeks and aerating the water.
McGuire believes the many calls she is getting from desperate pet owners in East Palestine since the train derailment are no coincidence.
“The first couple was, ‘Well, like, that’s odd.’ But now they are still coming and I’m screening so many daily. Hard to say that is a coincidence.”