Ohio Disaster – will those responsible be arrested?Feb 27, 2023
According to Newsweek, a toxic chemical cloud has reached a radius of 100-miles around East Palestine, the scene of a devastating train crash and chemical burn-off. If true, the people of Cleveland, the State capital 90-miles away, are now at risk of exposure.
At the same time, Cleveland residents are reeling from another explosion at a steel plant in Oakland, which hasn’t made international headlines yet. One employee has died, 13 are hospitalised. Ohio State Fire Department officials report, for the second time in a few days, multiple departments have attended a major incident. A “huge cloud of black smoke” was billowing from the scene according to witnesses.
What we know about the derailment so far is what the media would like us to know. There were 5 rail cars carrying vinyl chloride, a sweet smelling, colourless gas, inhalation of which causes headaches, nausea and dizziness but “chronic exposure” causes severe issues including liver damage and cancer.
That was only 5 of the 150 cars this train was pulling. Other cars, the number of which are unknown, contained ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate and isobutylene and at least one car, which is reported to have lost its load, contained butyl acrylate. This looks like a lot of confusing words but the bottom line is, all are toxic and associated with a wide variety of health problems.
EPA officials have tested and approved water quality levels as safe but waited 10 days to suggest drinking bottled water, there are reports of fish dying in large numbers. They are also saying the air quality has returned to level prior to the derailment but residents are saying they can still smell the chemicals despite wearing N95 masks and are suffering eye irritations, some are reporting rashes and there are livestock deaths as much as five-miles away.
A recent Town Hall meeting was held but members of the company responsible, Norfolk Southern, did not attend – fearing for their safety, , the question on everyone’s mind is what is their fear? Was it exposure to chemicals they know are in the air, or a fear of what residents, exposed to these terrifying conditions, might do.
Pete Buttigieg, the Transportation Secretary, is noticeable by his absence and says he will visit the area “when the time is right”, citing a 1939 bill called the Hatch Act as a reason for not attending the scene, this law prevents Federal officials from acting in a partisan way. Trump has confirmed he will attend the scene. Hatch makes no reference to former federal officials and the office of President and Vice President are excluded so this seems to be an acceptable method of political point scoring.
Tales of reporters being arrested are interesting but are nothing more than sensationalising of headlines. NewsNation reporter Evan Lambert was indeed arrested and has since been released without charge but the arrest was not related to the crash or chemical spills nor was it related to any expose he might have been making. It was because he refused to stop reporting from the same hall where Ohio governor, Mike DeWine, was making a speech; Lambert was, apparently, too loud. WKBN27, a local station has released CCTV camera footage of the incident (without sound) and it is clear from the video that the arrest wasn’t an issue related to press freedoms, but one related to nuisance.
Most people viewing the events through body cam would agree though, the journalist was unfairly arrested in an abuse of power. Both from Adjunct General of the National Guard, John Harris, and police. This was corroborated in a video interview by a former police chief. Furthermore, DeWine has made a statement saying he did not authorise it and thought the journalist had every right to report while he was speaking.
Despite what appears to be a wide coverage, all is definitely not well in the region. One point completely forgotten is that the derailment took place just half-a-mile from the Pennsylvania border, residents of Darlington Township have been neglected because they are not in East Palestine; not even in Ohio.
Biden, instead of visiting, sending VP Harris or ordering his Transport Secretary to go, has been silent on the events, East Palestine’s Republican Mayor Trent Conaway, has slammed Biden’s response and criticised his visit to Poland and Ukraine at a time when his town is suffering, Ohio’s Republican Governor has also slammed the federal response suggesting claims the region is safe while fish and livestock are dying are absurd.
Consumer advocate Erin Brockovich also has spoken out advising residents to “get out of there” and describes “systemic mismanagement”.
Whilst the events might not be on the scale of a Chernobyl or Bhopal this incident is being linked to the worst man-made environmental disasters of the last 50 years and the response seems, at best to be half-hearted, inadequate and partisan, had this event happened in a Democrat controlled region, the response may have been different.
Incidents such as these are not usually accidents, some form of negligence, corruption, mismanagement, or malpractice is usually involved and China is no stranger to Chemical fires, 2015 in Tianjin and again in 2019 in Beijing. The government response was swift, lessons were learnt and almost 50 government officials and company employees arrested. One must wonder how many people will face criminal court and imprisonment for these US disasters. The answer is most likely to be the same as usual: zero.