The key aspect that we should be focusing on is all of the runoff, potential pollution that is in the soil, has been observed in waterways, that either aren't being tested or, for example soil specifically, those tests are still ongoing and have not been released to the public yet. While some tests might genuinely come back as safe, there are plenty of other places to be testing and to be also making sure we're doing as much granular testing as possible. Even down to people's furniture because this stuff can soak into the environment around them. To me it certainly was a mistake to deem it to be safe to return for folks, especially that soon. Of course I, and as many other people do, we hope these people can go back to their lives and go back to a normal community and feel safe. But if that's not the case, then they shouldn't be led to believe that to be such. The bottom line here is that while there's so much confusion, while some tests have deemed it to be safe, but other tests are still ongoing, and while it was noted that the company may have contaminated soil and waterways. If there is that much confusion, there doesn't need to be a rush to bring these people back. Instead if the government was stronger in its response, we could have hopefully gotten these folks more compensation, more accommodations to not feel pressured to come back so soon. Of course a lot of these residents don't wanna hurt themselves or poison themselves or their families or their neighbors and friends. But it's hard to both just logistically and financially uproot yourself. It's also a community that you might have lived in for years. Your family might have lived there for years and generations. So there's a lot here in terms of people's personal connection to community they love, and also whether or not they're able to stave off returning until it hopefully is safe again.
Journalist Prem Thakker speaks with host Chuck Mertz about his articles in the New Republic about the the hellish Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, where residents have been told it is safe to return to the site of an intentional burn of 1.1 million pounds of vinyl chloride, a class 1 carcinogen, despite lack of comprehensive testing and many test results remaining inconclusive.
Prem Thakker is an associate writer for breaking news at The New Republic. His work has appeared in The American Prospect, Washington Monthly, CNN podcasts, and his newsletter Better World.
Find Prem's writing on the East Palestine here: newrepublic.com/authors/prem-thakker
Image: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Smoke_from_the_fire_on_the_night_of_the_accident_(v0wn4mB).jpg">thunderlips36</a>, <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0">CC BY-SA 4.0</a>, via Wikimedia Commons