Trey Kay, Tasha A. F. Lemley, Matthew Hancock Published

Trust: East Palestinians Not On The Same Track


In the aftermath of a disaster, people search for assistance and answers. 

Since a rural Ohio train derailment sent toxic material into the air, soil and water earlier this year, people in East Palestine have needed help. Some look to the government for that support, while others aren’t sure who to trust. 

In this episode of Us & Them, host Trey Kay hears from residents who face daunting challenges. Some say government agencies are doing their best at ongoing cleanup, while others say delays and inconsistent information leave them uncertain about their safety and unclear about whether they can go home. 

This episode of Us & Them is presented with support from the West Virginia Humanities Council and CRC Foundation.

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A dark plume of smoke is seen in the distance. A man, with his back to the camera and wearing a black hoodie, looks on as the smoke plume rises high in the sky.
An East Palestine, Ohio resident watches a black plume rise over his town, in February 2023, after a controlled detonation of derailed Norfolk Southern tank cars filled with vinyl chloride.

Credit: NPR
A woman looks at the camera, not smiling. She wears a black tank top, and her red hair is pulled back in a tight ponytail or bun.
Until the Norfolk Southern derailment, Jami Wallace was an East Palestine resident. She lived just over a mile from the accident site. Now, she’s moved with her family to East Liverpool — about 30 minutes away. She has a law degree and a background in Political Science and Public Administration. Now, as president of a response group for her community — the Unity Council — she finds herself a de facto spokesperson for a town still in crisis.

Credit: Trey Kay/West Virginia Public Broadcasting
A white sign is shown. It reads, "We are East Palestine. Get ready for the greatest comeback in American history."
A yard sign near the center of East Palestine.

Credit: Trey Kay/West Virginia Public Broadcasting
A young man in a navy tank top and sunglasses stands in front of the camera. He appears to be answering interview questions.
Macklain Hersman works in IT and says he lives within the official disaster area. He has history in East Palestine. In fact, his house has been in the family for three generations.

Credit: Trey Kay/West Virginia Public Broadcasting
A man speaks in front of a crowd inside a room. He holds a microphone.
Mark Durno, an EPA response coordinator, takes questions from concerned East Palestine residents.

Courtesy Stephanie Elverd
A woman with long dark hair and highlights speaks to a crowd inside. She holds a microphone in one hand and the other holds documents.
EPA Community Involvement Coordinator Diane Russell discusses the air monitoring data that the EPA has collected for the East Palestine area.

Courtesy Stephanie Elverd
A young woman poses for a photo, smiling slightly. She wears a rainbow colored tank top and an apron. She wears glasses and her hair is pulled back into a ponytail.
“East Palestine is quite a conservative area, but what I saw whenever things happened was I saw people who were on the right, who were on the left, who were somewhere in the middle, and some people who didn’t care at all, come together to demand answers and demand justice. Personally, I was proud of that, and that’s part of the reason why I’m here…that beauty in coming together, that solidarity, is what everyone should have all the time.” — Timothea Deeter, East Palestine resident

Credit: Trey Kay/West Virginia Public Broadcasting