A nonprofit public interest law firm called We The Patriots USA (WTP USA) held a press conference Monday in Akron to discuss newly-filed litigation against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and local authorities over how they handled the East Palestine railway incident.
WTP USA filled a federal civil rights law suit on Monday at the John F. Seiberling Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Akron, on behalf of Courtney Miller against the United States, the EPA, EPA Administrator Michael Regan, Governor Mike DeWine and Ohio EPA Director Anne Vogel.
The lawsuit alleges that the federal government including the EPA handled the disaster improperly and neglected to carry out the necessary testing in the aftermath of the derailment.
“The government and the EPA’s are failing to conduct adequate testing, industry standard testing. They are offering false assurances of safety all in an effort to sweep under the rug a catastrophe that has become politically inconvenient for them,” Counsel Cameron Atkinson, of Atkinson Law said.
The suit further claims that although Norfolk Southern may be responsible for the initial spill WTP USA is proceeding on behalf of the defendant on the theory that the EPA and local authorities created what’s called a “state created danger” in violation of East Palestine residents 14th amendment rights.
50 train carriages, 10 of which were carrying hazardous materials, derailed in East Palestine on February 3rd. 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.
According to Environmental Health and Safety Professional Tammy Clark, the EPA is only testing for what they want to find when they should be taking a deeper look.
“What we have seen here has put the townspeople of East Palestine at great harm due to the lack of proper risk communication. They are not doing the proper testing they are testing and sampling for what they want to find they are doing surface water testing not sludge and soil testing,” Clark said.
Clark continued saying that no one gave residents proper direction for how to safeguard themselves or their homes against chemical leaks.
“The people were sent back into their homes and yet they were told that they should “shelter in place” five minutes before this blast before this uncontrolled controlled burn and yet they were not told how to shelter in place their HVAC systems were not shut off they did not tape and seal their doors they did not know to cover their vents so everything that was burned was sucked right inside of every home and every business and yet they were told it was perfectly safe to go back,” Clark said.
WTP USA is asking a federal judge to issue an order to the EPA to conduct the proper industry standard testing necessary to give the people of East Palestine and the surrounding areas a straight answer about what is truly going on. “To give the people of Ohio their dignity and rights back and to put an end to them being used as pawns on a political chessboard.”
“We will know the truth and we will know it very soon. We will know exactly what is hurting all of us in East Palestine everyone that has rashes everyone that’s coughing everyone whose property was destroyed the creek behind my house that is destroyed. We are going to get answers and make sure people are held accountable for this,” Miller said.
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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 “Environmental Protection Agency in East Palestine, Ohio” by EPA Great Lakes.