People in the East are staying prepared for possible emergencies

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – Nearly two weeks have passed since the Norfolk Southern train derailed carrying toxic chemicals, and concerns are still rising.

“It’s a small molecule, it’s actually a gas at room temperature called vinyl chloride that’s used to make PVC, the pipes that people have in their house. The problem here is that it causes liver damage, it causes tumors, it’s carcinogenic, it’s also very flammable,” said ECU Chemistry Department Chair, Andrew Morehead.

Mary Tucker-Mclaughlin, one Greenville resident, recalls another Norfolk Southern train collision that happened in South Carolina in 2005.

“People had to shelter in place for weeks and nine people died, it was really something. In 2019 they did a panel and the residents said it was still problematic and that the chemicals had damaged the town so much.”

Along with health concerns, Mclaughlin also expresses the need for proper communication in times of crisis.

“You have two things going on here, you’ve got the crisis itself where property is damaged and people are concerned about their health, it’s in the water; and then you’ve got the other side which is Norfolk Southern and their image, and their response to the people, and what this does to them as a company.”

Along with health concerns, she says it’s important to have all hands on deck when there’s an emergency.

“The local fire departments just like we have around here and there were a lot of volunteer fire departments that showed up as well and then of course the state stepped in, but in those initial hours, it’s critical that the local people are available to help.”

Brian Haines, the NCDPS Public Information Officer says they have been monitoring the derailment and are continuously making sure they are prepared if any disaster happens in North Carolina. That includes any possible effect from this spill on North Carolina waterways.

East Palestine has held many meetings discussing the derailment and health concerns of the chemicals within the past two weeks and is trying to come up with the best solution.