Some East Palestine residents still living in hotels almost 3 months after train derailment
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In early February, Stella Gamble watched from her front porch as a toxic plume of smoke filled the sky over East Palestine, Ohio.
She soon learned that a Norfolk Southern train had derailed, spilling hazardous materials into the air, water and sky. In the days following the incident, Gamble’s family complied with evacuation orders. However, when they returned home, symptoms linked to the toxic chemicals in that train derailment drove them away again.
Almost three months later, Gamble believes that most of her family, including her four foster kids, have spent more nights in hotels and on the road than in the community they call home.
“We can’t do this forever, but for the first time ever I don’t feel hopeful, I don’t feel safe in my own home,” Gamble said. “If your government is telling you it’s safe come back home, your first instinct is to trust what they’re telling you. But it didn’t take too long for me to figure out that things were not okay.”
Gamble tells Fox News she doesn’t know what comes next for her family as they start to consider a move.
“If we want to have any piece of mind, we’d probably move – but those who say ‘just move’ – do I just move and take my entire family, and they can all find new jobs and I can tell all my grandkids you won’t graduate from the school you’ve gone to? There’s a lot more to it than just move,” Gamble said. “Even if there’s assistance… I don’t want Norfolk Southern’s money, I want my backyard so my grandkids can play without getting sick.”
Across East Palestine, ‘for sale signs’ have sprouted up in front of several homes in the wake of that February 3 train disaster. However, sellers face an uphill battle with diminished property value and little buyer interest.
In a March senate hearing, Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw faced questioning about the train derailment and was asked several times if the railroad company would compensate homeowners for their losses.
“I’m committed to doing what’s right for the community,” Shaw repeatedly replied.
In a previously released statement, Norfolk Southern recognized homeowners’ concerns but failed to commit to a specific action.
“We also know residents are worried about their home values. While we are working with local leaders on investments to support the community’s long-term prosperity, we understand these concerns,” the statement said. “We are committed to working with the community to provide tailored protection for home sellers if their property loses value due to the impact of the derailment.”
The EPA maintains that the community is safe as continual air monitoring and soil tests have not yet detected “concerning” levels of contaminants. However, officials tell Fox News they recognize some people may be skeptical of the results.
“We understand where residents may not be as trusting, we’re hoping to gain their trust over time as they continue to see progress out here. We’re not going away until this job is done,” said EPA on-scene response coordinator Mark Durno.
Nevertheless, the fear of continued chemical exposure remains for some residents
“People are testing positive for vinyl chloride and benzene, my sons tested positive, my daughters tested positive,” Gamble told Fox. “If there’s a one in a million chance your kid could get sick by staying here why would you take that chance?”