EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WKBN) – Thursday night in East Palestine, the community packed Studio 25 for an informational meeting. There was standing room only and the crowd spilled out into the lobby just to hear what experts have to say.
Residents from East Palestine and surrounding communities asked questions of an independent panel. That panel was made up of doctors, attorneys, hazardous materials specialists and academics.
Over and over again during the River Valley Organizing meeting, panelists and activists stressed the need for residents to use their voices and demand help.
“Because I was persistent and I used my voice, I got the railroad to come to my house, to send a toxicologist there who deemed my house unsafe to be in,” said Jamie Cozza, an East Palestine resident.
Cozza says her basement is five steps away from a contaminated creek.
“If they were wrong about my house, they could be wrong about your house,” Cozza said.
Questions to panelists ranged from hunting wildlife, well water, planting a spring vegetable garden, farm animals, proper cleaning procedures and the list goes on.
Scientists answered what they could, but admitted that until more tests are conducted and results for dioxins and other pollutants come back, there is no easy answer.
“There has to be testing done, otherwise, nobody will understand really what the risks are. We can all guess and hypothesize and your anxiety will just continue to raise,” said Stephen Lester with the Center for Health, Environment and Justice.
Panelists suggested calling local politicians, Norfolk Southern, the EPA and other organizations involved in the clean-up to ask for more testing of their homes and to hold them accountable.
Above all, they say to document any health problems for yourself, your kids and your animals.
“Get a journal and start taking notes every single day about what you’re experiencing, when, what time of the day it was,” said Attorney John Heer.