East Palestine family with serious medical symptoms opts for independent soil and water testing

Published: Apr. 6, 2023 at 10:36 PM EDT
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EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WOIO) - It’s been more than two months since a Norfolk Southern train derailed in East Palestine setting off a chain of events that the people who live in the small town never could have imagined.

The Murphy family has lived at their home in East Palestine for the past 22 years. They love their home and their farm. They didn’t plan on moving but now because of the toxic train derailment they might. Their family has been sick including their horses.

On Thursday they had independent testing done to try to get some more clarity on their situation.

“Norfolk Southern your train may have crashed but it derailed my life and now there are pieces that I don’t know how to pick up,” said Linda Murphy.

After two months of living in fear and uncertainty, the Murphys are desperate.

“My vision is blurry,” said Linda. “I have almost like cognitive issues where I can’t remember stuff. My train of thought wanders. I’ve had a lot of shortness of breath, and throat issues like something different than I’ve ever had before like if you drink something hot and you’ve burned your throat. That was what it was like.”

Linda Murphy needed answers, so she went to the doctor, and that’s when she learned she had vinyl chloride in her urine. According to the CDC, if you ingest vinyl chloride it should be out of your system within about 24 hours.

“On March 13 you wouldn’t expect to have anything in your system and living 2.8 miles away when they tell you anything outside of 1 mile is safe how could there possibly be a positive result for having vinyl chloride in your system? But there is,” Linda said. “I’d like to know what it means to Norfolk. What does it mean to you, what you did to me? What does it mean to you? Does it concern you? I bet it’s safe to say it doesn’t.”

Their horse is affected too. They found him with a swollen face and difficulty breathing.

“I had the vet come out immediately and they diagnosed him with exposure to something environmental,” Linda explained.

Linda and Russell Murphy had well water testing done by the EPA. According to those results, their water is safe. Since they live more than 2 miles away from the derailment site they didn’t qualify for any other testing but after two months of unexplained medical symptoms, they called in Scott Smith, Chief Sustainability Officer at Eco Integrated Technologies, to do some independent testing.

“Some of the things we’ve found we look for the presence of the dangerous chemicals and we have found the presence of a broad spectrum of dioxins and other benzene-related chemicals that are typical of oil spills,” Smith said.

It’s Smith’s 5th trip to East Palestine. Smith said since the derailment he’s done testing at 20 homes. Smith has been in more than 60 disasters including in 2006 when his business was destroyed by contaminated chemical waters in Johnsville, New York. He says he’s collaborating with the EPA and sharing his data.

According to the EPA, their well water testing showed no harmful levels of contaminants. The EPA also said so far, the soil sampling they’ve done shows that the levels of chemicals are well below any levels that would require restricting activities, but that’s not what Smith’s team tells him.

“My testing is about the presence of dangerous chemicals,” Smith explained. “I have a great expert team around me of toxicologists, of OSHA experts and they’re coming back saying the mere presence of these chemicals is a concern. It’s very simple you can’t find what you don’t look for and you need to be thorough, and you need to be testing furnace filters too.”

A month ago, CDC scientists studying the health impacts in East Palestine got sick and reported symptoms like a sore throat, headache, coughing, and nausea, consistent with what residents have been reporting.

“7 out of the 15 got ill and they go home, and they get better,” said Linda. “We stay and get worse.”

The family hopes Smith will equip them with the knowledge they need to decide how soon they need to find a new home.

“The unknown is what’s difficult,” said Russell Murphy. “It’s like prying teeth. You just can’t get answers.”

Smith said he should have the Murphy’s test results back in the next 10-30 days and he promised to share them exclusively with 19 News.