Residents of East Palestine, Ohio, and their surrounding areas were left in shock and confusion following a train derailment earlier this month. Five cars released massive plumes of dark smoke containing vinyl chloride, a carcinogen used to manufacture PVC, prompting authorities to evacuate all residents within one mile of the incident and to start a controlled burn of industrial chemicals.
Despite agency assurances that the air and water supply were not affected, locals and first responders have reported a lingering chemical smell in the air, an oily sheen in local creeks and rivers, sudden deaths among wildlife and livestock, and troubling health effects such as sore throats and headaches.
The New York Times sought to downplay these concerns Thursday in an article by Stuart Thompson, a reporter who covers “misinformation and disinformation.”
The reporter claimed that right-wing commentators were “sowing distrust” of government agencies and exaggerating the potential impact of the crisis. Thompson acknowledged that some commentators have speculated that the disaster could be “Chernobyl 2.0” or the result of a “planned attack,” but he insisted that the EPA’s statements that air and water supplies are safe should be taken at face value.
“For many commentators from across the political spectrum, the speculation has gone far beyond known facts,” Thompson wrote. “Right-wing commentators have been particularly critical, using the crisis to sow distrust about government agencies and suggest that the damage could be irreparable.”
“They warned, without evidence, that vital water reservoirs serving states downriver could be badly contaminated. And they suggested that the authorities, railroad companies and mainstream news media were purposefully obscuring the full toll of the crisis,” wrote Thompson. “The EPA has said air quality has returned to safe levels. Residents have been allowed to return. A chemical odor lingers because people can smell the contaminants even when they are far below hazardous concentrations, according to the agency. Water testing found ‘no indication of risk’ to public water systems so far.”
Legacy media outlets have granted minimal attention to the derailment and its aftermath.
As previously reported by Rebel News, according to the Media Research Center, CBS, ABC, and NBC spent less than 30 combined minutes reporting on the disaster. The conservative nonprofit concluded that reporters had “abandoned [the story] too early before asking any meaningful questions.”
The fate of East Palestine hangs in the balance as its residents await the results of federal and state investigations into the accident. While the EPA has declared air quality safe, many locals remain skeptical of agency claims, and a sense of fear and uncertainty continues to linger in the town.