Ohio Agency Opening Health Clinic Amid Growing Concerns After Train Derailment

Ohio Agency Opening Health Clinic Amid Growing Concerns After Train Derailment
Residents of East Palestine, Ohio, gather at a town hall on Feb. 15 in the aftermath of the Norfolk Southern train derailment. (Jeff Louderback/The Epoch Times)
Jack Phillips

The Ohio Department of Health confirmed that it’s opening a clinic in East Palestine, Ohio, this week to deal with mounting health concerns expressed by locals after the derailment of a train earlier this month that was transporting toxic chemicals.

In a statement, the agency said it will open the clinic on Feb. 21 in East Palestine in conjunction with the federal Department of Health and Human Services and Columbiana County Health Department.

The clinic will be available to “any East Palestine area residents who have medical questions or concerns related to the recent train derailment,” according to the statement. The statement didn’t indicate if there would be any cost for the clinic services.

“Registered nurses and mental health specialists will be on hand. A toxicologist will either be on site or available by phone,” the statement reads, noting that the clinic will be at the First Church of Christ in East Palestine. “In addition to two assessment rooms inside, a mobile unit operated by the Community Action Agency of Columbiana County will be parked outside the church in order to accommodate more appointments.”

Earlier this month, a Norfolk Southern-operated train derailed before officials ordered the release and burn of hazardous chemicals, including the highly carcinogenic vinyl chloride, in a bid to avert a potentially catastrophic explosion. Some locals say they’ve suffered a range of health issues, including rashes on their faces, after the incident.

Last week, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said the clinic would also include a team of experts on chemical exposures who are being deployed to eastern Ohio.

“These are very legitimate questions, and residents deserve an answer,” DeWine said while also claiming that testing inside and outside of homes in the village have so far found no signs of toxins that were on the train. “We’re doing absolutely everything we can to assure residents to what the situation is. I understand people have been traumatized. I understand skepticism.”

The governor also said air testing inside 500 homes hasn’t detected dangerous levels in the village since residents were allowed to return following the controlled release and burn of five tanker cars filled with vinyl chloride, which is associated with an increased risk of certain cancers.

But Nick Patrone, who lives four miles outside the village, told The Associated Press that there’s definitely an irritant still lingering in the air.

“You feel it,” he told the AP. “A lot of my friends have children who have rashes that are unexplained all over their bodies. They have sore throats, they have congestion, they have ear irritation.”

The chemicals also spilled into nearby creeks, killing thousands of fish, and a smaller amount eventually made their way into the Ohio River. To highlight the incident, Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) uploaded a video of him dragging a stick in Leslie Run—near the crash site—only to reveal what appears to be an oily, rainbow-colored substance.

“This is disgusting,” he said.

While environmental officials said the contaminant amounts in the river were low enough that they didn’t pose a threat, cities in Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia that get their drinking water from the river had been monitoring a slow-moving plume and a few temporarily switched to alternative water sources. Last week, the City of Cincinnati became the largest to do so.

Amid lawsuits that already are piling up against the company, Norfolk Southern previously told The Epoch Times that it isn’t able to comment directly on litigation or matters related to a National Transportation Safety Board investigation. In an update on Feb. 16, the firm did state that it’s distributing more than $2 million in financial assistance to families and others to deal with costs associated with the evacuation and is creating a $1 million fund for East Palestine.

Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw released a letter stating that the company is “here and will stay here for as long as it takes to ensure your safety and to help East Palestine recover and thrive.”

“Crews are cleaning the site thoroughly, responsibly, and safely. Our Family Assistance Center is helping community members meet immediate needs.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter with 15 years experience who started as a local New York City reporter. Having joined The Epoch Times' news team in 2009, Jack was born and raised near Modesto in California's Central Valley. Follow him on X: https://twitter.com/jackphillips5
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