We are now nearly a month removed from the terrifying train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio that tipped off an environmental disaster without precedent in the United States.
Several of the rail cars involved in the Norfolk Southern incident were carrying hazardous chemicals, including vinyl chloride – a toxic chemical necessary in the manufacture of PVC pipe. When authorities began to fret about a potential explosion of one of these transport tankers, they decided that their best option would be a controlled burn.
The result was a black plume of hazardous smoke that residents say is killing their pets and livestock.
Now, in a worrisome turn of events, workers tasked with cleaning up the wreck site are growing severely ill.
A U.S. union official alerted the Biden administration to health problems caused by the Norfolk Southern derailment in February, saying that some workers have become sick.
In a letter obtained by CNBC, union representative Jonathon Long said Wednesday that rail workers have fallen ill at the East Palestine, Ohio, crash site.
“Many other Employees reported that they continue to experience migraines and nausea, days after the derailment, and they all suspect that they were willingly exposed to these chemicals at the direction of NS [Norfolk Southern],” the letter reads.
“This lack of concern for the Workers’ safety and well-being is, again, a basic tenet of NS’s cost-cutting business model,” the letter added.
Norfolk Southern is also reportedly neglecting their workers.
The letter recalls one situation where a worker was ignored by his supervisor after asking to be taken off the site due to concerns for his safety. Other workers, who asked for appropriate personal protective equipment, reportedly received little to no response from Norfolk Southern officials.
The letter concluded by calling upon Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to “bring about necessary changes” to prevent any similar rail disasters from happening in the future.
Norfolk Southern has faced numerous bouts of criticism for their hasty work in cleaning up the site, with many residents of East Palestine openly suggesting that the controlled explosion of the vinyl chloride tankers was more about saving time and money than it was about saving lives.