EAST PALETINE, Ohio (WKBN) — It’s been over six months since the East Palestine train derailment, and residents from the village say they still have questions that need answers, while some haven’t returned to their homes.
Members of the Unity Council for the East Palestine Train Derailment met at the head of the village walking trail around 4:30 p.m. Monday. With them were rocks painted with either support for the village or questions from the community.
“My biggest question right now is, are we safe and how do we get the true answers?” said Jami Wallace, a resident. “There’s no trust left in the EPA.”
Many of the questions raised were about testing. Members of the unity council said air quality needs to continue in homes by independent scientists paid for by Norfolk Southern.
“The EPA has since admitted it could only pick up 5 times the reportable limits of certain chemicals,” Wallace said.
One woman said her and her son have been out of their home for six months, living in a hotel.
“Hardest part is not knowing where we’re going to go,” Zsuzsa Gyenes, a resident. “For a while, we were hoping to go home and we never got this EPA cleaning, and now we find it’s not HAZMAT certified. They’re not doing air ducts.”
Gyenes said she’s been looking for a new home in Pennsylvania to be closer to family but admits the last six months have taken a toll.
“Every day, not knowing what’s going to happen, has been very difficult. A lot of anxiety, a lot of depression and a lot of frustration, generally,” Gyenes said.
The group has made trips to Washington D.C. to speak to lawmakers. They would like to see continued support for the village from the local, state and federal levels.
“I would like to see them go door-to-door and check on the community, see the other side of people, instead of their little cliques,” said Eric Cozza, a resident.
The council asks that President Joe Biden sign off on Gov. Mike DeWine’s disaster declaration.
“The government can recoup their money from Norfolk Southern later, but we need help now,” Wallace said. “This is not politics. This is human lives. This can happen in any community.”