Reddit Ohio’s citizen journalism covers apocalyptic train derailment like no other
Train detailment map and a mess made from it

Nothing stinks worse than a cover-up that’s been exposed, but then again, Norfolk Southern is donating to each resident of East Palestine a $5 bill for their troubles.

“They’ve offered the town $25,000, or $5/person. The railroad is worth $55 BILLION,” Tweeted Nina Turner former national co-chair of the Bernie Sanders 2020 presidential campaign.

That’s just for their immediate challenges, like being forced to run for their lives. But what about any long-term issues for residents? Or anyone else, for that matter, who may become exposed to the vinyl chloride spilling into the Ohio River.

Acording to Yahoo! Finance, “In 2012, a train crashed in Paulsboro (New Jersey), spilling 23,000 gallons of vinyl chloride, the same chemical involved in the East Palestine spill. A 2014 study conducted by the New Jersey Department of Health found that half of local residents had health problems caused by the chemical spill.”

The region around East Palestine has become a hard news desert. Youngstown’s The Vindicator is a shell of itself. On the other hand, citizen-generated journalism or “do-it-yourself media” is thriving. 

In the immediate aftermath of the February 3 wreck, Reddit Ohio – the social discussion platform – had thousands offering help and their take on the disaster. For example, railroad union members were calling for Norfolk Southern to release the train’s full manifest.

It took another ten days but Norfolk Southern revealed there were other chemicals onboard. Such as ethylhexyl acrylate, a carcinogen, and ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, which can cause blood in urine.

Residents of this sleepy Ohio town, in many ways stuck in a bygone era, were also told by Reddit contributors to start making plans.

Wrote one Redditor, “They will have armies of lawyers ready to fight back against any lawsuit coming from this. Document as much as you can or you’ll lose. Any health claim could be seen as a preexisting condition, so document that you are fully healthy now.”

Another wrote, “If you can, move. Encourage everyone else to move. My stepfather got leukemia and died from a chemical spill that happened a half mile away in the 80s. The chemical plume migrated and settled under his house where he had a basement office. There is no lawyer who will take our case, there is no company left to sue.”                              

Experts were also offering much-needed information and perspective. 

“Environmental Engineer here…US EPA is in charge of air testing. Ohio EPA will be in charge of remediation and site monitoring (surface and ground water, and soil). Norfolk is in charge of the initial clean up and site response.”

They continued, “The only government oversight Norfolk answers to is the US Department of Transportation, despite transportation of hazardous materials (they lobbied heavily to get rid of any notion of safety laws).

Vinyl chloride reacts with water and water vapor to create secondary compounds. Next concern is what precipitation will look like.

Two tributaries to the Ohio river have tested positive for hazardous chemicals and according to locals’ social media and calls to news stations, all the fish and frogs are dead. The Ohio river affects so many other states for their source drinking water.”

Just like the American-owned Union Carbide’s 1984 gas leak disaster in Bhopal, India, the warning signs were blaring. The bottom line? Corporate greed.

“I read that the railroad companies have consistently neglected maintenance of the cars and tracks while increasing max load weights, car numbers per train, and decreasing number of workers on each train. No wonder this kind of thing happens eventually when the companies are trying to cheap out on every step without looking at the risks,” stated a Redditor.

“The railroad workers have been warning for decades that things like this could become more common, and within the past decade the railroads went and pushed it into ‘worst case scenario’ mode,” wrote another Redditor.

“Anyone else remember when there was going to be a rail strike over long hours and poor working conditions? And then the railroads and the Biden adminstration stepped in and made the strike illegal?”

“Oh, say it plainly. 44 Democrat senators, 36 Republican senators and Joe Biden sided with rail corporations against unions, labor, workers and the safety of the American people.”

“This isn’t just a Republican problem. This is a pro-corporate problem. This is a class war. 80 U.S. senators and Joe Biden showed us which side they’re on.”

“The news will interview anybody they can find except the one group of people who actually have the answers, because who gives a shit what someone who actually has to put up with the atrocious working conditions has to say?”

“Government: ‘We went straight to the company PR department and they didn't say any of the stuff these workers are apparently saying, so there is no issue.’”