Union Rep Reports: Employees Are Sick After Working on Cleanup for East Palestine Train Disaster

According to a union spokesperson for workers who build and maintain railways for Norfolk Southern, those who assisted in the cleanup after the train derailed in Ohio have continued to have migraines and nausea.

In a letter to Ohio Governor Mike DeWine on Wednesday, Jonathan Long, a union representative for the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, claimed that Norfolk Southern, the company that owns the train that derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, last month, had ordered about 40 workers to clear the wreckage.

Long claimed that he had received complaints that the workers had not been provided with the right personal protective equipment, such as respirators, eye protection, and protective clothes, to help clean up the debris.

He also said that many 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 [Norfolk Southern].”

In a statement to The Ohio Star on Thursday, Norfolk Southern refuted the assertion that they did not provide appropriate personal protective equipment to workers at the scene.

“In East Palestine, Norfolk Southern was on-scene immediately after the derailment and coordinated our response with hazardous material professionals who were on site continuously to ensure the work area was safe to enter and the required PPE was utilized, all in addition to air monitoring that was established within an hour,” A Norfolk Southern Spokesperson told The Star.

On February 3rd 50 train carriages, 10 of which were carrying hazardous materials, derailed as a result of a technical problem with a rail car axle, according to federal authorities. There was vinyl chloride in five of the vehicles. Hundreds of residents evacuated as a result of the controlled release of poisonous gasses that Norfolk Southern carried out on February 6th to stop an explosion.

Officials told East Palestine residents on February 8th that they could safely go home, despite the reports of hundreds of dead fish in the Ohio river near East Palestine and residents complaining of headaches and illness since the derailment.

Numerous locals are still concerned about what they might have been exposed to and how it might affect the neighborhood in the future. Some residents say medical professionals diagnosed them with bronchitis, lung issues, and rashes that they suspect link to the chemical exposure from the train derailment

Also, both locally and nationally, the incident has ignited a political firestorm for its response to the derailment. The Biden administration, and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in particular, have come under intense criticism.

Norfolk Southern has also come under fire, particularly for pulling out of a town hall meeting in the village in the middle of February due to “employee safety concerns.”

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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Ohio National Guard “by The National Guard. CC BY 2.0.




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