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Toxic chemicals discovered in the ground near Ohio derailment site concern residents

After being told it was safe to garden, an independent test showed high levels of dioxin in East Palestine's soil.
Train Derailment Ohio
Posted at 10:39 AM, Jun 20, 2024

Toxic garlic grown in East Palestine, Ohio, is prompting renewed concerns about the safety of the area and risks to the residents who still call it home more than a year after a toxic train derailment wreaked havoc on their lives.

The nonprofit Government Accountability Project filed a petition with the Environmental Protection Agency, calling on it to conduct additional soil studies near the derailment site.

The petition cites independent testing that found high levels of chemicals in garlic grown in East Palestine. According to the Government Accountability Project's research, composite soil samples at the derailment site showed dioxin Toxic Equivalency Quotients at 91.9 per trillion, 19 times higher than the 4.8 per trillion residential screening level. The EPA insisted it was safe to garden there just weeks after the derailment, based on tests conducted by state officials in multiple locations around the area. The agency has dismissed independent testing in the past, citing concerns with quality control.

Scott Smith, CEO of US BioSolutions, said that the EPA has not conducted tests in "hot zones" in East Palestine. He said by not testing in these areas, the EPA can claim that its testing does not reveal concerning chemicals in the air and soil near the derailment.

"The cancer-causing chemicals here, to put it in perspective, I've been in 60 disasters, and every chemical I've ever encountered is in East Palestine," Smith told Scripps News. "That's what makes this different. The mixtures of chemicals are unprecedented. And I have a saying 'you can't find what you don't look for.' The EPA is being very clever here because they're clearly a captured agency and they've been corrupted."

Jami Wallace, a resident of East Palestine, said a settlement was reached with Norfolk Southern prematurely. In April, Norfolk Southern said it has reached a $600 million settlement to resolve all class action claims made by residents who live within a 20-mile radius of last year's derailment site.

"When they started announcing settlements before NTSB hearing reports were even back, I don't understand why they would even entertain a settlement before they had all the evidence," she told Scripps News.

Related stories:
East Palestine train derailment spread 'hazardous' pollution to 16 states, research shows
Norfolk Southern will pay modest $15 million fine as part of federal settlement over Ohio derailment