Famed environmental activist Erin Brockovich hosted a town hall meeting with the people of East Palestine, Ohio on Friday night describing the situation as unlike anything she had seen in more than 30 years.
‘I feel your angst and I feel your frustration,’ she told the gathered crowd on Friday night.
‘You have symptoms, you have issues. You want to be heard but you’re being told it’s safe. Well, that’s just rubbish! You want to be seen and you want to be heard. I’ve never seen anything like this in 30 years like the situation in East Palestine.
‘I’m also here to tell you that Superman is not coming. Nobody is coming to change what’s happened to you, magically fix what’s happened to you or give you all the answers,’ Brockovich said to applause during a 20 minute speech at which hundreds of concerned residents attended.
‘You have an amazing set of instincts and a good set of common sense. There are 44,000 fish that have been killed, their animals are dying, you evacuate people because there’s toxic people in the air, then you tell everyone to come because it’s safe – it creates a lot of confusion.’
Environmental activist Erin Brockovich speaks during a town hall meeting at East Palestine High School on Friday night concerning the February 3 Norfolk Southern freight train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio
Activist Erin Brockovich said it was unlike anything she had seen in over 30 years of work and empathized with the audience’s frustration saying it was not a ‘quick fix’
Later, Brockovich went on Fox News with to outright declare that ‘there’s something they’re not telling us’, following the toxic train derailment two weeks ago
‘This is not a quick fix. This is going to be a long game.’
Brockovich said that she hoped lessons might also be learnt from the incident.
‘This is a community where we might have that teaching moment, to shift tracks – no pun intended on that one – and look to becoming more protective of the future and more proactive in how we’re going to deal with these types of contaminations instead of just sitting here and letting the disaster happen and then reacting to it,’ she said.
Later, Brockovich went on Fox News with to outright declare that ‘there’s something they’re not telling us’, following the toxic train derailment two weeks ago.
Brockovich, an environmental lawyer and consultant, whose work battling Pacific Gas & Electric was turned into the 2000 film starring Julia Roberts, said she was deeply concerned the community having been given ‘horrible mixed messages’ about water safety.
‘It is certainly concerning to the people of East Palestine. We are pushing a month now, and they still don’t have any answers. It’s very obvious that something has really gone wrong out here,’ Brockovich said.
‘It is certainly concerning to the people of East Palestine. We are pushing a month now, and they still don’t have any answers. It’s very obvious that something has really gone wrong out here,’ Brockovich said on Fox News on Friday night
‘You want to be seen and you want to be heard. I’ve never seen anything like this in 30 years like the situation in East Palestine,’ Brockovich said to the crowd at a town hall
‘I’m also here to tell you that Superman is not coming. Nobody is coming to change what’s happened to you, magically fix what’s happened to you or give you all the answers,’ Brockovich said to applause during a 20 minute speech
Over 3,500 fish have died in the immediate area due to what residents believe is toxic runoff
‘I’ve been out here down on the ground, and they are really frustrated. They don’t feel the administration cares about what’s happened to the community. So it’s very apparent they are concerned and not being seen or heard.’
When asked by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson if she believed there was something that the community was not being told, Brockovich did not hesitate.
‘ 44,000 fish are dead. We have seen them out there today. They are aerating the creeks, removing stuff. The wellheads are locked. What’s up?
‘You have dead fish. That might not be good for humans. You have dead animals. Might not be good for humans. You have sent a horrible mixed message to this community. Drink the water, don’t drink the water. Safe, not safe. It is horribly confusing and extremely frustrating to them,’ Brockovich said.
‘You have symptoms, you have issues. You want to be heard but you’re being told it’s safe. Well, that’s just rubbish!’ Brockovich said as she empathized with the residents of East Palestine
Environmental activist Erin Brockovich speaks to concerned residents as she hosted a town hall on Friday night in East Palestine
Activist Erin Brockovich talks to a resident of East Palestine before speaking at a town hall meeting
Hundreds of people attended the town hall meeting on Friday night in East Paletstine, Ohio
Erin Brockovich held the rooms attention as she imparted advice to the gathered crowd
Brockovich told the residents: ‘This is not a quick fix. This is going to be a long game.’
Brockovich brought on other speakers to share her vision of ‘East Palestine Justice’
An East Palestine resident listens as activist Erin Brockovich speaks during a town hall meeting
Earlier on Friday President Joe Biden directed federal agencies to go door-to-door in East Palestine, Ohio, to check on families affected by disaster.
Under Biden’s order, teams from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Environmental Protection Agency and Federal Emergency Management Agency will visit homes beginning Saturday. Workers will ask how residents are doing, see what they need and connect them with appropriate resources from government and nonprofit organizations, the White House said.
The ‘walk teams’ are modeled on similar teams following hurricanes and other natural disasters.
Biden directed employees to get to as many homes as possible by Monday. Officials said the immediate goal was to visit at least 400. The president said he currently has no plans to personally visit Ohio.
Meanwhile, the controversy spread far beyond the little Ohio town.
Officials in Texas and Michigan expressed concern about contaminated wastewater and soil being transported to their states for disposal.
Biden’s order came as House Republicans opened an investigation into the February 3 derailment, blaming Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for what they contend was a delayed response to the fiery wreck.
The focus on DOT came even though the EPA took charge of the federal response this week and ordered Norfolk Southern railway to pay for the cleanup and chemical release.
A preliminary report released Thursday by the National Transportation Safety Board stated that the crew operating the Norfolk Southern freight train didn´t get much warning before dozens of cars went off the tracks and there is no indication that crew members did anything wrong.
Republicans are framing the incident as a moral failing at the hands of the Biden administration, noting Buttigieg’s failure to visit the site until nearly three weeks after the wreck.
Democrats point to rollbacks former President Donald Trump made during his term that weakened rail and environmental regulations. EPA Administrator Michael Regan visited the site last week and again on Tuesday.
Biden on Friday rejected the notion that his administration hasn’t been present in providing assistance.
‘We were there two hours after the train went down. Two hours,’ Biden said at the White House. ‘I’ve spoken with every single major figure in both Pennsylvania and in Ohio. And so the idea that we’re not engaged is simply not there.’
A giant plume of smoke from the aftermath of the incident could be seen from miles away
The toxic train derailed in a fiery crash on February 3, leading authorities to evacuate the surrounding East Palestine, Ohio area
The dangerous chemicals released in the East Palestine train derailment
A train carrying a wide-variety of toxic chemicals derailed in East Palestine, Ohio on February 3.
Some of those chemicals have since been released into the air or soil, as residents worry about the long-term health effects.
Among the chemicals released from the derailment are:
Vinyl chloride — train operator Norfolk Southern has said that 10 cars were burning vinyl chloride, a known carcinogen. It is a highly-volatile colorless gas used to create polyvinyl chloride, a plastic used in piping, cables, bottles and credit cards.
Symptoms of vinyl chloride exposure includes drowsiness, headaches and dizziness. More long-term effects may include cancer and liver damage.
Hydrogen chloride — In trying to mitigate the effects of vinyl chloride, officials conducted a controlled explosion of the train cars, releasing hydrogen chloride.
The chemical is irritating and corrosive to any tissue it gets in contact with, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns.
Brief exposure can cause throat irritation, but exposure at higher levels can result in rapid breathing, narrowing of the bronchioles, blue coloring of the skin, accumulation of fluid in the lungs and even death.
Phosgene — a chemical that was also released in the controlled explosion.
Like hydrogen chloride, phosgene is an irritant to the skin, eyes and respiratory tract.
Common initial symptoms include mild irritation of the eyes and throat, with some coughing choking, nausea, occasional vomiting, headache and a feeling of tightness in the chest.
Phosgene poisoning may also cause respiratory and cardiovascular failure, low blood pressure and an accumulation of fluid in the lungs.
Ethylhexyl acrylate — a chemical that was carried on the train
It is a known carcinogen, that can cause burning and irritation of the skin and eyes. Inhalation of the substance can also irritate the nose and throat, causing shortness of breath and coughing.
Isobutylene was also being transported on the train.
Inhalation of isobutylene can cause dizziness and drowsiness
Ethylene glycol mobobutyl was another substance being transported to Pennsylvania.
It can cause irritation in the eyes, skin, nose and threat, as well as hematuria (or blood in the urine), nervous system depression, headache and vomiting.
White House staffers reached out to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine´s office on Sunday, February 5 to offer additional federal assistance, the White House said in its most detailed account of the initial federal response to the wreck, which has led to round-the-clock news stories.
A timeline given out by the White House Friday said DOT provided ‘initial incident notification’ to members of the Ohio congressional delegation and relevant committees on Saturday, February 4, less than a day after the derailment.
That same day, EPA deployed real-time air monitoring instruments in 12 locations surrounding the wreck site and in the neighboring community, the White House said.
The Oversight letter requests documents and communications concerning when DOT leaders learned of the derailment and whether they received any guidance about what the public response should be, as well any recent changes to agency train maintenance and procedures.
A day earlier, Buttigieg made his first visit to the crash site and hit back at Trump, who had visited the day before and criticized the federal response.
Buttigieg told reporters that if the former president – and current Republican presidential candidate – felt strongly about increased rail safety efforts, ‘one thing he could do is express support for reversing the deregulation that happened on his watch.’
On Friday, Buttigieg chided Comer for referring in his letter to ‘DOT’s National Transportation Safety Board,’ saying he was ‘alarmed to learn’ the committee chairman ‘thinks that the NTSB is part of our Department. NTSB is independent (and with good reason). Still, of course, we will fully review this and respond appropriately.’
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre excoriated ‘political stunts that we´re seeing from the other side.’
Norfolk Southern said the NTSB report showed the train’s heat detectors worked as intended and the crew operated ‘within the company’s rules.’ Nevertheless, the company said it would ‘need to learn as much as we can from this event’ and ‘develop practices and invest in technologies that could help prevent an incident like this in the future.’
The freight cars that derailed on the East Palestine outskirts, near the Pennsylvania state line, included 11 carrying hazardous materials. Residents evacuated as fears grew about a potential explosion of smoldering wreckage.
Worried about an uncontrolled blast, officials released and burned toxic vinyl chloride from five rail cars, sending flames and black smoke into the sky.
That left people questioning potential health effects, though authorities maintained they were doing their best to protect people.