Residents of the Ohio town of East Palestine say authorities have kept them in the dark about the risks of a chemical spill on a nearby railway line, while they suffer unexplained health problems and witness wildlife dying out.
Two residents of the US state of Ohio have born witness to the government cover-up of an unfolding environmental disaster.
A train hauling tanks of the flammable, cancer-causing chemical Vinyl Chloride derailed near the small town of East Palestine, Ohio, on Friday February 3, causing an explosion that created a huge black mushroom cloud over the area.
Firefighters later conducted a controlled burn of the remaining chemicals, releasing tons of acidic hydrogen chloride and phosgene — an extremely toxic, heavier-than-air gas used as a chemical weapon in the First World War — into the environment.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials evacuated some residents from the area on the Pennsylvania border, between Cleveland and Pittsburgh. The agency later told them to return home, claiming there was no long-lasting or dangerous contamination.
But locals say the spill has left hundreds of wild animals dead around the town.
Authorities have been reticent to answer questions about the accident. Journalist Evan Lambert was even wrestled to the ground and handcuffed at a press conference with Ohio Governor Mike DeWine.
“The governmental regulators are saying everything’s fine, guys just go home,” Misty Winston, a political activist, told Sputnik. “And that’s absurd.”
“The chemicals that were in these railcars are no joke,” she stressed, pointing out that vinyl chloride, used to make PVC, boils at eight degrees Fahrenheit (-13 Celsius) and that hydrogen chloride combines with water — including vapour in the atmosphere — to form hydrochloric acid.