Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) on Sunday noted that residents of East Palestine are “right to be skeptical” after a train derailed and emitted toxic chemicals into the air, water, and land near the homes.
“Should the residents accept the assurances from the government or are they right to be skeptical?” anchor Pamela Brown asked Brown, who was elected in 2007, during a Sunday morning interview.
“Well, they’re right to be skeptical,” Brown said, echoing comments made by various state and federal authorities. “The EPA administration when I was there, both the state and federal EPA administrators, said that. But when you return to your home, we think the water is safe, but when you return to your home, you should be tested again for your water and your soil and your air.”
However, some have expressed alarm about waterways near East Palestine. Last week, Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) posted a video of him placing a stick in what appears to be a highly contaminated stream near the derailment site, revealing a rainbow-colored, oil-like substance. Several other videos captured in the area showed residents tossing rocks into nearby waterways, showing the rainbow-colored substance coming to the surface.
During his visit to East Palestine, Vance called on the EPA administrator, Michael Regan, and other officials to drink the water before making claims that the water is fine to drink. On Friday, meanwhile, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine told a news conference that recent testing from five of East Palestine’s wells showed no contamination.
“Would you drink the water in East Palestine and do you think the officials there who are saying it’s safe, they should drink the water, too, to show the residents they would drink it?” Pamela Brown asked Brown on Sunday.
“Well, I think they are. I talked to the mayor. The mayor said definitively, emphatically, people can drink the water,” Brown replied. He did not definitely say whether he would drink the water during the interview.
Brown then launched into an attack on Norfolk Southern, claiming that it “is the same old story” of “corporations [doing] stock buybacks.”
“They do big dividend checks. They lay off workers. Thousands of workers have been laid off from Norfolk Southern. Then they don’t invest in safety rules and safety regulations and this kind of thing happens,” the senator added.
Over the weekend, Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw visited East Palestine as he said that the decision to release and burn chemicals from the train was done to avoid a catastrophic explosion. Previously, DeWine’s administration said such an explosion would have caused shrapnel to fly near residential areas.
“I think we did what we needed to do in order to prevent an uncontrolled explosion in the evening,” Shaw said, adding that a variety of federal and state officials signed off on the move to release and burn the chemicals. Notably, the train was carrying vinyl chloride, a highly carcinogenic substance.
The CEO told local media outlets that his firm also hired independent consultants to perform air and water testing in the village. Tests of municipal water sources have come back and shown the water to be fine, he said.
“Private well testing we need to continue to monitor and test the wells and wait for those results to come back,” Shaw told WFMJ-TV, although the CEO did not rule out that the soil underneath the rail line is contaminated.
On Friday, the White House said it has “mobilized a robust, multi-agency effort to support the people of East Palestine, Ohio,” and noted that officials from the Environmental Protection Agency, National Transportation Safety Board, and other agencies were at the rural site near the Pennsylvania line within hours of the derailment of the Norfolk Southern train carrying vinyl chloride and other toxic substances.
Other than Regan, however, no other White House cabinet member has visited the rural village, where about 5,000 people live, including many who were evacuated as crews conducted a controlled burn of toxic chemicals from five derailed tanker cars that were in danger of exploding.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.