Ohio state Sen. Michael Rulli, a Republican whose district covers East Palestine, on Saturday warned that people living within ten miles of the small Ohio-Pennsylvania border town should not drink or bathe in the water.
The Ohio EPA said earlier this week that water testing results showed no contaminants in the municipal water. But Rulli remains unconvinced.
“Anyone within ten miles, I am begging you not to drink the water. I am begging you not to bathe in the water. It is not safe,” Rulli said in an interview with Breitbart regarding the controlled release of toxic chemicals from the Norfolk Southern freight train after it derailed on the night of Feb. 3.
While the massive fire that erupted from the derailment didn’t kill anyone, Rulli said, local water supplies contaminated by the chemicals might increase the risk of cancer among local residents in the years to come.
“So, what I’m suggesting is that everyone goes as far away as you can and get a hotel room,” he added. “We got people that are fighting with Norfolk Southern. Norfolk says they’re going to pay for it. We got to hold their feet to the fire.”
Rulli also indicated that the air in East Palestine was making him physically uncomfortable. “Every time I leave there, I get a sore throat,” he said. “And I have a sore throat for the rest of the day. The next day, it starts clearing up but it is what it is.”
Meanwhile, Democratic U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio on Sunday avoided directly answering a question regarding water quality in East Palestine.
Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Brown, who visited East Palestine on Feb. 16, was asked whether he would personally drink water that came from the town.
“Would you drink the water in East Palestine?” asked CNN’s Pamela Brown. “And do you think the officials there who are saying it’s safe, they should drink the water too to show the residents that they would drink it?”
“Well, I think they are,” the senator responded. “I mean, I talked to the mayor. The mayor said definitively—emphatically, that people can drink the water. I don’t know. I don’t think the mayor has small kids. He looks a little older to me. I didn’t ask him about bathing his kids. But he has said he would drink this water.”
The senator then shifted the focus on Norfolk Southern, claiming that the train company “caused” the disaster by laying off workers and not investing in “safety rules and safety regulation.”
“They know that corporate lobbyists have had far too much influence in our government and they see this as the result,” “These things are happening because these railroads are simply not investing the way they should in car safety and in the rail lines themselves.”
The other U.S. Senator representing Ohio, Republican J.D. Vance, challenged the EPA officials to drink the water they claim is safe.
“I think that if the EPA administrator wants to stand here and tell people that the tap water is safe, by all means, they should be willing to drink it,” the first-time senator said.
In a video he shared on Twitter, Vance can be seen scraping a creek bed with a stick, causing an oily, rainbow-colored sheen to appear on the surface of the water. He also claimed that “dead worms and dead fish” can be found “all throughout this water.”
“The fact that these chemicals are still seeping in the ground is an insult to the people who live in East Palestine,” said Vance. “Do not forget these people.”