Conflicting claims have emerged in an eastern Ohio community as state officials reject claims that chemicals released in a train accident are causing animals to become sick or die.
On Feb. 4, about 50 cars of a Norfolk Southern train derailed near East Palestine, Ohio, according to the Associated Press. About 20 cars carried hazardous substances, officials said.
A mass evacuation was ordered Monday, after officials decided to burn off the vinyl chloride in the cars, which sent phosgene gas, which is toxic, and hydrogen chloride into the air, according to the AP. On Wednesday, two days later, residents who had been evacuated were told they could return home.
This is what they call a “controlled release” The train derailment in Ohio at a little town called East Palestine had at least 5 tanker cars full of toxic flammable chemicals, apparently the only options were to let it burn like this or it would go off like a bomb. pic.twitter.com/SfogMDO9hd
— 🥀_Imposter_🕸️ (@Imposter_Edits) February 7, 2023
But Taylor Holzer, a farmer and registered fox keeper who lives just outside the evacuation zone, said whatever went into the air has made his animals sick, according to WKBN-TV.
One died, he said.
“Out of nowhere, he just started coughing really hard, just shut down, and he had liquid diarrhea and just went very fast,” Holzer said.
Holzer said lethargy, a lack of interest in food and puffy faces are common symptoms he has seen in his foxes.
“Smoke and chemicals from the train, that’s the only thing that can cause it, because it doesn’t just happen out of nowhere. The chemicals that we’re being told are safe in the air, that’s definitely not safe for the animals … or people,” he said.
He said other animals have also been impacted.
“People’s cats are getting sick and dying, and people’s other birds that they have in their house that they weren’t being able to evacuate either. It’s just it’s not safe for them,” he said.
But state officials say all this is news to them, according to Salem News.
Ohio Department of Natural Resources Media Relations Specialist Stephanie O’Grady said her agency “has not received any reports of animals being killed by toxic air following the train derailment.”
A statement from the Ohio Department of Agriculture said it “has not received any official reports regarding the wellness of animals related to the incident.”
“As the Ohio EPA and area agencies continue to monitor the air and water quality, ODA is ready to assist as needed. If you notice unusual behavior in your livestock or domestic pet, please contact your local veterinarian for further guidance,” its statement said.
Resident Melissa Smith said residents who have returned “are anxious to be home but very leery — there’s still a lot of doubt with feeling safe,” according to Trib Live, which noted in a report that many local businesses remained closed days after residents were allowed to return and that pedestrian traffic in the village was very light.
Smith said for many, the cleaning has just begun.
“A lot of people, they’re changing their furnace filters, getting their air tested and getting their houses scheduled for power-washing,” Smith told TribLive.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.