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Towns outside East Palestine worry about long-term health effects

Smaller towns might be farther away from the train catastrophe in East Palestine, but they want just as much help and attention.
Posted at 8:46 PM, Feb 20, 2023

The toxic plumes and poisonous run-off from the fiery Norfolk Southern train wreck aren’t just putting East Palestine, Ohio at risk — but neighboring towns too. 

Kayla Miller and her family keep a farm raising various poultry, fowl, goats and a pig in nearby Negley, just about 10 minutes south of town.  

"I left Monday afternoon before the detonation. I took as many animals as I could — I left with my kids," Miller said. 

The Millers evacuated when first responders detonated and burned off toxic materials in the train tanks to avert even more catastrophe.

"I think we did what we needed to do in order to prevent an uncontrolled explosion in the evening," said Alan Shaw, CEO of Norfolk Southern Rail.

When they returned Miller found some of her birds were sick or dead.

"When I got back he wasn’t himself, staying alone. He’s a rooster, always chasing after everything," Miller said. 

Miller adds her step daughter developed a rash and respiratory problems, she thinks from the polluted air and water. 

"I absolutely think it has to do with the air because you could smell it — for days, you could smell it. I don’t know, it could be the water too," Miller said. 

Miller is not the only parent showing Scripps News photos of children with symptoms of sickness.

Federal and state health officials will open a clinic to treat those who think they’ve suffered chemical exposures. It will be inside a local church, and a mobile unit will park outside.  

Air and water safety in East Palestine, Ohio is still unknown

Air and water safety in East Palestine, Ohio is still unknown

Chemicals spilled after the train derailment in Ohio have locals wondering if their land is safe.

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Tiffany Gorby lives down the road from the road from the Millers. Her family making do with bottled water — not from their taps.  

"We’re in Negley, 3.5 miles from the derailment. Everything we get comes from Palestine. It’s all running down to us. We’re on well water," Gorby said. 

Scripps News filmed Columbiana Health Department officials testing her neighbor’s well. 

"Maybe now our well water is good, but in five years, six months even, is our well water still gonna be ok?" Gorby said. 

The Gorbys invited us to film the same crew testing their well. But when they returned to the Gorbys' home, the health official refused to test because we were recording. 

Even with our offer to leave, they re-scheduled the appointment. 

The body of water that concerns the two mothers is Leslie Run, which pollutants have seeped into. We filmed a dead minnow and more residue accumulating near a boom that’s supposed to mitigate the damage.  

"There’s always been that joke when East Palestine flushes their toilets, Negley gets a drink of water," Gorby said. 

The anxiety doesn’t stop at the Ohio -Pennsylvania state line. 

Matt Deighton lives and works in Darlington, Pennsylvania. It's around 10 miles from East Palestine. He says customers visiting the deli and butcher where he works saw and smelled the toxic smoke too.   

"Worried about the long term effects. What’s gonna happen with the soil," Deighton said. "EPA says everything’s fine. I don’t know if I can entirely trust that or not."

The two smaller towns on either side might be farther away from the catastrophe in East Palestine, but they want just as much help and attention. 

"We need to know you’re coming to us. Test our water, our soil and our air," Gorby said.