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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Friday, June 14, 2024
The Echo

East Palestine train derailment harms residents, ecosystem

Crash provides opportunity for discourse

While the East Palestine train derailment took place over one month ago, larger questions still loom regarding the impact the crash had on the local residents and the ecosystem.

The National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) has reported that the crash, which involved 38 cars from a Norfolk Southern freight train derailing, was likely due to a heated wheel bearing on one of the railcars, according to an article from the Wall Street Journal.  

The disaster resulted in numerous hazardous chemicals, including vinyl chloride, making their way into the surrounding water, soil and air.

An article from CNN reports that high levels of exposure to vinyl chloride can increase the risk of cancer or result in death.

Assistant Professor of Sustainable Development Phil Grabowski said he was concerned about the chemicals coming into contact with bodies of water and the ramifications that could follow.

“Once those chemicals hit the water, the ecological consequences are dramatic,” Grabowski said.

Those consequences include the killing of thousands of aquatic animals.

According to an article from The Washington Post, state officials believe over 43,000 fish, amphibians, crustaceans and other marine life could have potentially been killed as a result of the derailment.

Grabowski said all of this impacts the food web, a system of interlocking and interdependent food chains. Additionally, Grabowski said once hazardous chemicals come into contact with water, they become difficult to remove.

And marine life is not the only population suffering. 

According to CNN, East Palestine residents have been experiencing headaches, dizziness, nausea and bloody noses. The article notes these are all issues residents began experiencing after the derailment

“Part of this creation care is also about justice and loving other people and taking care of the most vulnerable,” Grabowski said. 

Grabowski worries about how the crash might affect populations largely made up of immigrants, refugees and those seeking asylum. He said vulnerable populations are more likely to live closer to rail lines and industrial sights.

But he also knows events like these provide believers with the opportunity to extend a helping hand.

“I think anytime there’s a disaster, it’s amazing and wonderful for Christians to be generous and help out, especially because sometimes it’s going to take a really long time (to recover),” Grabowski said.

He’s also hopeful the crash will give society a chance to examine how the American rail system operates and if any changes need to be made.

Norfolk Southern, the railway responsible for the accident, is already facing several lawsuits from East Palestine residents, according to a BBC article. 

Norfolk Southern has faced criticism in the past for pushing against safety measures aimed at the freight industry. 

“I think the more we try and only focus on maximizing profit or saving all that we can, there are going to be consequences,” Grabowski said.

The NTSB is looking to determine if hazardous chemicals like vinyl chloride need to be transported in train cars that are more secure, according to an article from CNN.

“This was 100% preventable,” Jennifer Homendy, the chair of the NTSB for the Biden administration said in a news conference. “...The NTSB has one goal, and that is safety and ensuring that this never happens again.”

While the situation in Ohio continues to unfold, Grabowski remains optimistic about the future.

“We just have to work harder and pay attention to care for the world around us because it does matter and it impacts people’s lives,” he said.