Erin Brockovich Demands Joe Biden 'Step Up Now' on Ohio Train Derailment

Environment activist Erin Brockovich is calling on the Biden Administration to "step up" after a trail derailment in eastern Ohio led to a controlled release of toxic chemicals.

On February 3, a train operated by Norfolk Southern Railway derailed near East Palestine, Ohio, and cause a major fire near the track. Around 20 of the 50 cars that derailed were transporting hazardous materials, including vinyl chloride, a toxic and flammable gas.

Out of fear that the fire could cause an explosion, officials decided to conduct a controlled burn of hazardous materials, which began on February 6. However, the process still released some toxic chemicals into the atmosphere.

Erin Brockovich on Joe Biden
Activist Erin Brockovich stands in front of a computer image showing photos of water samples from around the country, as she speaks during an Oklahoma Earthquake Town Hall Meeting at the University of Central Oklahoma February 23, 2016, in Edmond, Oklahoma. In inset, President Joe Biden. Brockovich called on Biden's administration to "step up" in response to the trail derailment in eastern Ohio. J. Pat Carter/Getty; Anna Moneymaker/Getty

On Monday, Brockovich posted on Twitter that President Joe Biden needed to be "more involved" in the derailment, adding, "Doing better than your predecessor, is not doing enough."

"We are counting on you to break the chain of administration after administration to turn a blind eye," Brockovich wrote. "STEP UP NOW."

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been monitoring the air and drinking quality of the surrounding area of the train derailment, and residents of East Palestine were allowed to return home on Wednesday after a mandatory evacuation had been ordered nearly a week prior.

However, concerns still remain regarding the effects the release may have on residents and the surrounding wildlife. Two days after officials began the controlled release, a news outlet in Pittsburg reported that hundreds of fish had been found "belly up" in the Leslie Run stream, and a wildlife rescuer in East Palestine told Newsweek that his animals were suffering a week after the derailment.

As the New York Times reported on Monday, residents have also complained about suffering from headaches and "feeling sick" since the derailment, and two Pennsylvania residents have sued Norfolk Southern to set up health monitoring for the area surrounding the train derailment, reported the Associated Press.

Last week, James Justice of the U.S. EPA said in a press briefing that the agency used "hundreds and hundreds" of data points before determining that it was safe for residents to return to the area, adding that there had been a "few detections right at the site" but that all were "below health screening levels."

According to the National Cancer Institute, exposure to vinyl chloride is associated with liver cancer, brain and lung cancers, and lymphoma and leukemia.

EPA regional administrator Debra Shore told Newsweek in a statement Tuesday afternoon that her department was "on-site by 2 a.m." on February 4 following the train derailment, adding, "Since then, EPA has been boots-on-the-ground, leading robust air-quality testing."

"EPA Region 5's number one priority is—and will always be—the health and safety of communities across the region," Shore said.

According to Shore, air monitoring conducted by the EPA has not detected "any levels of health concern" in the East Palestine area since the fire from the crash went out on February 8.

"As of February 14, EPA has assisted with the screening of 396 homes under a voluntary screening program offered to residents, and no detections of vinyl chloride or hydrogen chloride were identified," she added. "Sixty-five additional homes are scheduled for today. We are continuing to conduct 24/7 air-monitoring to ensure the health and safety of residents."

Brockovich also called upon the state departments in Ohio in a separate tweet Monday, writing, "And believe me this is in no way to suggest that the first line of responsibility isn't on the state government but they seem too busy locking up journalists."

The activist was referring to a NewsNation reporter who was arrested by Ohio police last week for being too loud after reporters were asked to remain quiet while Governor Mike DeWine was speaking at a press conference.

In a statement to CNN on Wednesday, Kurk Kohler of the Ohio EPA's Office of Emergency Response said that the agency has been operating under an "emergency response," noting that, "as you see the emergency services go back home, off-site, Ohio EPA is going to remain involved through our other divisions that oversee the long-term cleanup of these kinds of spills."

Newsweek has reached out to Brockovich for further comment.

Update 2/14/23, 4:30 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional comment from the EPA.