Videos by OutKick
The people of East Palestine, Ohio say they just want their ordinary lives back.
At The Original Roadhouse bar and grill which sits a stone’s throw away from the Sulphur Run creek where Donald Trump visited a cleanup site Wednesday afternoon, the locals I talked to around the bar say they don’t want your money, your baked goods, and definitely don’t go setting up GoFundMe pages for them.
They want the Norfolk Southern railroad company to hold up its end of the bargain to make this town whole again. They want the federal government to do the same. They want the EPA to do its part and they sure would appreciate some attention from national leaders, especially President Joe Biden who spent the early part of the week showing attention to Ukraine — on Presidents’ Day.
That really stings this community of 4,700 sitting along the Ohio-Pennsylvania border approximately 50 miles northwest of Pittsburgh and 22 miles southeast of Youngstown. On February 3, around 9 p.m., their lives changed, possibly forever, when 38 railcars derailed and caused a massive fire that could have consequences for decades.
There was Trump Wednesday cruising around East Palestine Wednesday in a multi-SUV motorcade unlike anything the locals had ever seen before. The locals who lined up along Market Street in front of a Pizza Hut carryout claimed this was easily the biggest event in town history.
Trump was actually showing interest in their cause. His mere presence, they believe, has caused Biden’s team to react and suddenly show a higher level of interest in East Palestine as the town becomes a political football.
While sitting around the Roadhouse bar, local rock band singer Nick Figley, 29, made it clear that those complaining about Trump coming to town are missing the point of why this is a good thing, even if you don’t like the guy.
Trump’s being a disruptor. His mere presence means the Biden administration can no longer make this a state issue and leave it to DeWine to handle.
Figley was adamant that Biden’s actions are the direct result of Trump’s trip.
And creating a level of discomfort amongst a government and a railroad company that was ready for the news cycle to move on, is incredibly important for East Palestine. The belief here is that once the news media moves on, it’ll be easier for slackers to slack off.
In a story published Thursday by Vox, Jon Schweppe, the director of policy and government affairs at the American Principles Project, a conservative think tank, addressed this thought that isn’t exclusive to East Palestine residents.
“There is a growing sense that all of these corporations are against us — not only are they trying to screw us over on the woke stuff, but generally, they just don’t care about ordinary people.”
Let’s hear from the locals:
One resident who stuck out to me was Jeff Julian, a retiree from the First Energy Corporation. He’s supposed to be entering the best years of his life with a pension he worked hard to accumulate. February 3 changed everything.
Now Jeff is left with wall damage from an explosion that took place the day after the train derailment and a house that he’s not sure is sellable in a town where people aren’t sure about the future of the water supply.
Next up: Ashley Smith and Brian Fosnaught from Negley, OH
The big problem for these two is that they live in a rental on a farm with well water approximately four miles south of East Palestine. Leslie Run Creek, which is fed by Sulphur Run in East Palestine, works its way through Negley.
Smith says, due to falling outside of the East Palestine derailment zone, they’re left to test their own water and they’re not sure if any of these costs will be refundable in the future.
What about the East Palestine city water? Do the locals drink it?
Based on what I heard at my impromptu Roadhouse bar roundtable discussion and from Jeff Julian, many people are drinking the city water. One resident told me that he knows the guys at the water treatment facility and if they say the water is fine, he’s drinking it.
However, the same people at the bar who told me they are drinking it, want to make it clear that could change if the chemicals seep into the water table. Yes, they’re on alert and, as you’d suspect, there are concerns for the future of the water supply.
Odds and ends from East Palestine:
• Between the two old(er) timers I talked to Jeff Julian and James Figley, Nick’s dad, they seemed content with the job the EPA is doing. They both said based on their previous work experiences and dealing with EPA regulations, Norfolk Southern will be held to high standards here.
• There is 100% a smell along the creek in the middle of East Palestine. It’s a sweet smell. Now, I couldn’t get an answer out of the disaster cleanup worker if his team was attempting to pull off the sheen you can see in Sulphur Run creek.
I’m not a disaster cleanup expert, but it sure looks like something is on top of that water. This video was shot in the center of town approximately .3 miles upstream from where Trump met with locals at a cleanup site before Sulphur Run dumps into Leslie Run.
• A question I have is what happens at night when the workers go to get some sleep? I’m wondering how often the filter bags need to be changed out. And how long will workers keep doing this work?
• I didn’t see any environmentalists protesting. The locals say they’re unaware of groups coming to town to protest against Norfolk Southern. How tolerant of the environmentalists to be judging disasters based on where they happen.
• On the topic of the local sports teams having a hard time finding opponents, Nick Figley and his friends at the bar aren’t surprised. That’s just the level of fear families in the immediate area have for East Palestine right now.
• That said, East Palestine has one helluva high school football complex. Get your teams lined up for a road trip into that environment. For a town of 4,700, it rivals small college setups.
• There was just one confrontation between a Biden supporter holding a sign asking Donald Trump to throw him a roll of paper towels (based on the Puerto Rico hurricane relief incident) and Trump fans on separate sides of Market Street. One of the Trump supporters ran to a gas station and bought a roll of paper towels for the guy who took the roll and attempted to throw it across the street at the Trump supporters.
His throw ended up short and hit a passing car right in front of an Ohio State trooper and an East Palestine officer who advised Biden guy to move along.
“I didn’t hit that car,” Biden supporter guy said.
“Yes, you did!” fired back the East Palestine officer.
The Biden supporter decided it was time to move along.
Let’s see the Biden supporter in action. Nice mask!
• After making three stops — one was at the local McDonald’s to buy lunch for the firefighters — Trump was back on the road to the airport and a flight back to Florida. East Palestine went back to life on a Wednesday night in February. Thursday morning, they’d learn that Pete Buttigieg was finally on the ground to take a look at the damage.
Trump’s work here was done. He’d prodded the Biden team just like he intended.