NEGLEY, Ohio (WKBN) – In the first ever community press conference, residents from both Ohio and Pennsylvania affected by the East Palestine train derailment are speaking about their experiences, illnesses and demands moving forward.
The press conference was held at the East Palestine Country Club. The Unity Council for the East Palestine Train Derailment sat at the front of the room, a council made up of residents from Pennsylvania and Ohio to serve as an oversight board.
Representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency, Norfolk Southern and East Palestine local government were also invited. However, just one representative from the EPA attended.
The room full of roughly 100 people took turns sharing thoughts and emotions as many of them are still feeling the impacts from the derailment. Some feel the health issues they are facing are a direct result of the derailment.
“I’ve had symptoms, I have an auto-immune and it has made it worse. I’ll probably cry because I’m pretty emotional. My daughter turned 30 on Sunday, her joints are so swollen and she is so tight and so swollen everywhere, that she can’t walk,” said Kim Rankin, from Columbiana.
There were also kids in attendance who had their own concerns.
“I’m 17 and I’m representing for the youth. My question is, will me and my sisters be infertile and if we can have kids, are they gonna have birth defects?” asked Jenna Kosa.
“Right now, I can’t sleep in my own bed or even spend more than five hours a week in my own home and I will never be able to play in my backyard, ever. We live at ground zero,” said 12-year-old Jarret Walker.
The attendees were asked several questions.
“By a show of hands, how many people have had health symptoms since the derailment?” one moderator asked.
Almost every hand in the crowd went up.
Besides the experiences shared, there was also a list of demands. This included calling for Ohio Governor Mike DeWine to declare an emergency declaration or a major disaster declaration in East Palestine so residents can seek full support from the federal government.
Other demands included lifelong medical coverage, financial support for relocation and real estate outside of the one-mile radius, as well as independent medical testing and treatment funded by Norfolk Southern.