Residents ill from toxic train crash, as Buttigieg frets over too many white construction workers

Ten days after a train derailment in Ohio has raised environmental concerns on the level of Chernobyl, and two other derailments have occurred in South Carolina and Texas, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg displayed his priorities by voicing concern over “too many stories” of racial disparity in one particular sector of labor.

On Monday, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana had yet to make even a passing mention of the train derailment that happened on February 3 in East Palestine, Ohio when he addressed the National Association of Counties Conference. The crash of the 150-car train that was carrying vinyl chloride, which produces phosgene and hydrogen chloride, burnt up by rail operator Norfolk Southern in an effort to prevent an explosion was evidently not worthy of discussion.

Instead, Buttigieg touted the so-called success of trillion-dollar infrastructure spending while turning his focus to a perception that there are too many white people working construction in minority neighborhoods.

“We have heard way too many stories from generations past of infrastructure where you got a neighborhood, often a neighborhood of color, that finally sees the project come to them, but everyone in the hard hats on that project, doing the good paying jobs, don’t look like they came from anywhere near the neighborhood,” the secretary offered.

As former California congressional candidate David Giglio put it, “When the topic of racist highways or white construction crews comes up, Secretary @PeteButtigieg is an open book. But, when an ecological disaster takes place in Ohio he is MIA. Are there any members of @JoeBiden’s cabinet who are serious about doing their jobs?”

NBC News affiliates spoke with locals from in and around East Palestine and not a one appeared to share Mayor Pete’s pressing concern over white construction workers ahead of the fact that 5,000 people had been displaced due to evacuations that left many residents concerned the response hadn’t been enough.

“They only evacuated only 1 mile from that space,” Jenna Giannios, a 39-year-old wedding photographer said while coughing. Reports had come in from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources detailing that the chemical spill from the train cars had killed at least 3,500 fish by Wednesday and the mounting concerns over the safety of the water had left her drinking only from bottles and leery of even bathing. “I’m concern with the long-term health impact. It’s just a mess.”

By Monday night, Buttigieg finally took to Twitter to address the problem in Ohio and wrote, “I continue to be concerned about the impacts of the Feb 3 train derailment near East Palestine, OH, and the effects on families in the ten days since their lives were upended through no fault of their own. It’s important that families have access to useful & accurate information.”

He went on to note investigations were underway and claimed his agency would “use all relevant authorities to ensure accountability and continue to support safety,” and specified that the Environmental Protection Agency had screened 291 homes, with 181 to go, and claimed they hadn’t detected any toxins at levels dangerous to humans.

The transportation secretary failed to comment on the fact that, since waiting ten days to remark on the Ohio crash, there had also been train derailments in South Carolina and Texas, the latter of which, near Houston, had also involved the transportation of hazardous chemicals.

Meanwhile, people outside the evacuation zone like Lisa Marie Sopko, the founder of Kindred Spirits Rescue Ranch in Darlington, Pennsylvania, four miles from the Ohio crash, had evacuated 77 of their larger animals like yak and zebu for two days and are using their most sophisticated water filtration until their wells can be tested.

“We could see the plume come up and over us,” she explained. “Our eyes were burning, and my face could feel it.”

Others reported smaller livestock keeling over and dying as far as ten miles from the area while officials downplayed concerns, stating that symptoms of mild exposure would be limited to things like dizziness, nausea, skin irritation and coughing.

Giglio pointed out the relative silence on the story and wrote, “If there were 3 train derailments, one of which is an ecological + human disaster, in a week during the Trump Admin and his Transportation Secretary was making balloon jokes instead of doing his job, there would be wall to wall coverage and the media would be calling for impeachment. Instead they won’t cover the story [because] it’s very very bad for Biden & Mayor Pete. We don’t have a media in this country, we have a propaganda cabal.”

Others voiced similar concerns over the out-of-balance coverage while the EPA awaits results as to whether or not the local water table is contaminated.



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