East Palestine businesses struggle among train derailment aftermath

Published: Feb. 16, 2023 at 9:47 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - When the Norfolk Southern train derailed in East Palestine nearly two weeks ago, the public’s trust in the railway operator “derailed” as well.

Residents are being encouraged to return to life as normal, but local restaurants, hair salons and more said people are fearful for everyday tasks from getting their hair washed to ordering a glass of water.

“Well, everybody’s afraid. What are they afraid of? The unknown. So, water? Yes. They don’t want to come in and drink the water,” said Teresa Sprowls, owner of Sprinklz On Top, a restaurant on the main drag in East Palestine.

Sprowls said her business may look crowded, but it has been impacted by the massive train derailment in a similar way to the COVID affect.

A stylist at Skilz hair salon on Taggert echoed Sprowls concerns, saying there is no doubt about if they have lost business, with many worried about what may be in the water washing their hair.

Desiree Walker has lived in the town for 19 years, her home with young children just 900 feet from where the train derailed.

She said her family is feeling symptoms from the toxins, but doctors tell her they don’t know what to test for.

“At night time especially is when we smell it the most,” she said. “Our throats are sore, we’re coughing a lot now. My son, his eyes matted shut.”

Walker refuses to let her children drink the water, fearing it could have long-term health effects as they are truly at ground zero.

“There’s a big concern because they’re young. They’ve got their whole life ahead of them. I don’t want this to impact them down the road. I want them to have a long, happy life.”

Others said they trust the U.S. EPA director and others who toured the site.

While in East Palestine, 19 News learned that some members of the community are determined to take their health and safety into their own hands, holding an informational community meeting on February 23, with more details to come.

They said independent scientists from several universities will be in attendance.