Health concerns the topic for Thursday’s EPA info session | News, Sports, Jobs

The East Palestine Health Clinic, located at located at 139 N. Walnut St., was available by appointments only on Monday. The clinic opened in April but some residents have voiced frustration that the clinic does not offer baseline testing or screening for chemical exposure. On Thursday, medical experts and health officials will discuss health concerns with residents at the fifth installment of the EPA’s informational series held at The Way Station. (Photo by Stephanie Elverd)

EAST PALESTINE — The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday will hold the fifth installment of its informational series detailing cleanup and remediation efforts in the wake of February’s Norfolk Southern train derailment. The latest session will focus on public health after a demand by residents that health concerns be addressed and will be held from 6 to 7 p.m. at The Way Station located at 109 W. Rebecca St.

“We heard you,” Mark Durno, EPA response coordinator, told those in attendance at last week’s meeting. “You told us that this is what you wanted and next week will be about health.”

Medical professionals and health officials are expected to discuss with residents short- and long-term impacts from the derailment as well as urinalysis results of local residents who say show exposure to vinyl chloride and benzene. Many residents sought testing from private labs which found the presence of thiodiglycolic acid (TDGA) or vinyl chloride metabolite at .50 mcg/ml or higher in residents’ urine samples. TDGA is the body’s major breakdown product of vinyl chloride and a biomarker for exposure. Vinyl chloride breaks down in the body rapidly. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), “specific tests for the presence of vinyl chloride in the breath or breakdown products in the urine are available, but they must be performed shortly after exposure … urine levels of thiodiglycolic acid peak about 20 hours after exposure.”

Concerned residents have taken advantage of the informational sessions to ask about the medical testing results as well as physical symptoms that they say still linger but have not received any answers as the experts at the sessions so far have been strictly environmental — not medical. Residents are continuing to report respiratory irritations, digestive issues, rashes, nosebleeds and chronic headaches.

In April, the Ohio Department of Health partnered with East Liverpool City Hospital to officially open the doors of the East Palestine Health Clinic. The permanent clinic, located at located at 139 N. Walnut St., evolved from and replaced the temporary health assessment clinic that was opened inside the First Church of Christ during the early days following the derilament. The clinic was billed as a primary health clinic that would “not only be able to meet the needs on an ongoing basis from a very early stage to a very late stage in life, but we will also be able to continue early medical presence for support related to people’s concerns about the train derailment and the events that occurred in February.” However, residents report that the clinic does not offer baseline screening for chemical exposure nor will it refer residents to labs who do. That has left many in the community frustrated.

Residents will finally be able to receive insight from health officials on medical questions concerning test results and discuss other derialment-related health concerns during Thursday’s informational session.

The first informational session reported the results of the first-round of soil sampling. Durno said that no soil samples in and around the village revealed an unusual amount of dioxins — a serious and persistent environmental pollutant caused by combustion.

The second session focused on air quality, with the EPA again reporting no alarming levels of chemicals in the village air.

Private well testing was the topic of the third session. That session was presented in partnership with the Columbiana County Health District. Neither agency could find levels above non-detect of 29 compounds that the manifest of the cars that derailed dictated.

Last week, surface water was discussed. The EPA confirmed that both Leslie and Sulphur runs remain contaminated. The agency reported Butyl Acrylate and petroleum products are still present in the local waterways, but was optimistic that water conditions are improving.


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