EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WKBN) – Environmental activist Erin Brockovich doesn’t mince words about what she’s seen and heard in East Palestine following the train derailment.
The environmental activist met with reporters Thursday outside a restaurant in East Palestine, just a short distance from where crews work to remove contamination from Leslie Run Creek.
Around 200 people attended last nights town hall meeting.
“I’ve been on a lot of environmental situations, and I’ve never seen anything in my life so mismanaged, ever,” Brockovich said.
Brockovich spent time talking with residents about their concerns. One was Scott McAller.
“We just want answers, just answers. All the citizens here of East Palestine need answers, and we’re not getting them,” he said.
The EPA required that a representative from Norfolk Southern be at the meeting.
EPA Administrator Debra Shore told residents they haven’t detected any volatile organic compounds above levels of health concerns. Angry residents called out and someone yelled “Don’t lie to us.” Darrell Wilson, an official with Norfolk Southern, says they are ready to clean up the contaminated soil under the re-laid tracks.
But, they are waiting on EPA approval. This did not sit well with some residents.
Wilson promises they have a plan to make things right. He told residents it took Norfolk Southern a few weeks to figure out where the contamination was. Residents shouted “Everywhere!” and expressed their frustrations towards company.
“You know just like we know what happened here was catastrophic. It is not going to get better overnight. We have people living here you know. do you live here? No. So it’s not as effective to you. You can tell us and treat us like we’re children and tell us about the statistics. Norfolk is a goliath and we are no match. I got it, point taken. Norfolk is in here bullying everybody,” residents said.
“We’re ready to start tomorrow morning, that is not our decision to make, we are no longer in control of the site. We are ready to go,” said Norfolk Southern Official Darrell Wilson.
Wilson says they had a plan to clean the site. When the EPA took over the site, they had to resubmit the plan and wait for approval.
Greg Maxher said it’s a constant worry and his health is suffering.
“I’ve lost 15 pounds because I’m up every night worrying about my grandchildren. What am I exposing them to that’s going to hurt them down the line,” Mascher said.
The residents complain they’ve been getting conflicting messages from different agencies with no clear advice on what to do next.
“We’re not puppets. We’re people. We live here. We have families here. We have businesses. I have multiple rental properties here, people I care about,” said Giovanni Irizanny.
While her online information suggests Brockovich and others here with the group calling itself “East Palestine Justice” have ties with a number of lawyers, Brockoich said she’s not simply helping find clients for future lawsuits against Norfolk Southern.
“I would understand that people might think that. I’ve been called that. But after 30 years, I’ve really shown myself. I’m not here for that reason. I’m here for these people,” Brockovich said.
Those gathered Thursday to talk to Brockovich are grateful she’s listening.