A resident of East Palestine, Ohio, has been forced to euthanize her cat, Leo, due to suspected chemical poisoning after a train carrying toxic materials derailed in the area earlier this month.
Andrea Belden, Leo’s owner, returned home the day of the derailment to find Leo ill, according to Newsweek.
“He had just gone to the vet on Jan. 18 and was perfectly fine,” Belden said, “I had noticed once we got to where we were evacuated Leo was having issues.”
Assuming he was experiencing stress, Belden tried to make him comfortable. The next morning, however, Leo was taken to the vet as he was having difficulty breathing.
There, she says, Leo was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and extremely elevated liver enzymes. Vinyl chloride, one of the contaminants that had been carried by the train, is a known hazard to the heart, lungs, liver and skin.
As heartbreaking as Belden’s story is, she’s not alone. Residents throughout the East Palestine area are reporting the sudden death of pets, livestock and even wildlife.
The Ohio Department of Natural resources (ODNR) has estimated a loss of 3,500 fish while the Ohio Humane Society told the Herald-Star they’re overwhelmed with people desperately seeking aid for their ailing pets.
“My phone is just going all day,” Columbia County Humane Society Director Teresa McGuire said.
Andrea Breshears told ABC27 WHTM that just days following the crash, all five of her chickens died in their coops with no apparent cause.
“I’m beyond upset and quite panicked,” Breshears said. “They may be just chickens, but they’re family.”
Residents are faced with looming fears that the contaminants, which the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has documented to have entered the water ways through Sulphur Run, Bull Creek, North Fork Little Beaver Creek and the Ohio River, might have long term effects on their health.
The Ohio River supplies drinking water to the region, but the EPA has reassured residents the pollution plume is being tracked and that current testing shows municipal water is safe to drink.
Despite this, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine stated in a press conference Feb. 14 that he encouraged residents with private wells to only drink bottled water until they have their wells tested.
During an informational session between impacted residents and EPA Administrator Michael Regan on Feb. 15, Kathy Dyke asked “I have three grand babies. Are they going to grow up here in five years and have cancer?”
Attendees wanted to know more about the chemicals present and if any financial assistance they may be given due to the evacuation, but Norfolk Southern representatives had declined to attend.