Ever since the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, last February, the First Church of Christ has been a hub for disaster relief in the community. They’ve hosted medical clinics, and mental health clinics, and distributed relief supplies to the residents.
Now, the church is leading an effort to provide medical-grade air purifiers to the estimated 2,500 remaining homes and small businesses that do not have them.
The website HelpEastPalestineOhio.org was launched earlier this month to help with fundraising efforts.
All donated funds will go toward purchasing the air purifiers. The First Church of Christ has partnered with Germ Solutions USA, a provider of air purification systems, for the effort. The company will match donations – for every unit given through donations, a second unit will be given at no cost.
There are over 500 families presently on the waiting list.
Six months after the derailment, many residents of East Palestine are still experiencing symptoms including respiratory illness, nosebleeds, rashes, eye infections, and anxiety over potential long-term exposure to toxins.
According to media reports, recent independent testing showed levels of dioxins in the soil to be between 27,000-164,000% higher than normal. Last March, a team of 15 doctors and epidemiologists with the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry based in Atlanta, Georgia, began surveying residents but had to withdraw on the first day after seven of its members developed suspicious symptoms, according to reports.
“People in East Palestine have a legitimate reason to be concerned about how the toxic chemicals they are being exposed to will affect them in the years to come,” Rick Vickroy, regional director of Germ Solutions USA said in a press release. “Consider what happened in lower Manhattan after September 11 – more people died of cancer from long-term exposure to toxic chemicals than died in the attack. These air purifiers will go a long way towards giving residents peace of mind that the air and surfaces in their homes and businesses are as contaminant-free as possible.”
Bob Helbeck, pastor of The First Church of Christ East Palestine, said providing air purifiers for homes and businesses will give people peace of mind.
“Residents are leaving, businesses are suffering, and parents with young children are anxious about their health,” he said. We are hopeful that by providing more air purifiers, we will see fewer illnesses and more people will feel comfortable staying in our community.”
Since the disaster, the church has already distributed nearly 500 Beyond Guardian Air Generation II (BGA Gen II) air purifiers to homes and small businesses in the affected area. More than 150 of the units were donated by Germ Solutions USA and were placed in every classroom and common area in the East Palestine elementary, junior high, and high schools.
The BGA Gen II employs the same technology as FDA Class 2 purification systems currently used in hospitals and reduce 99.9% of contaminants in the air and on surfaces.
To watch the video produced by HelpEastPalestineOhio.org, CLICK HERE.
EPA Continues to Monitor Clean-Up, Contamination Levels
As CBN News reported in June, the Environmental Protection Agency is monitoring the clean-up and contamination levels, updating the public in real-time while responding to the catastrophe.
Mark Durno, response coordinator with the EPA, told CBN News he expects the EPA to monitor water tributaries for years to come.
“We’re estimating somewhere between 60 and 100,000 tons of contaminated material are going to come out of the area – so that’s significant,” Durno said. “There were over 900,000 pounds of vinyl chloride (on board).”
The EPA is helping clean and monitor toxins while shipping contaminated soil and water to deep well injection sites.
“It’s our job to make sure that anything that may be left behind are not at levels that could ever be a health concern to residents, or the ecology in the area,” Durno said. “We inject the contaminants several miles into the earth, that will never be accessed again by human hands.”
For some, this has become a crisis of uncertainty due to the long-term impact of the derailment and spill. Pastor Ken Sevacko with Rogers Assembly of God, though, sees a resilient community leaning on their faith that God will heal their land. As East Palestine residents look toward the future, he seeks to reassure them that God is their refuge and strength – an ever-present help in times of trouble.
“Houses can be replaced, jobs can be replaced, but people/family relationships can’t,” Sevacko told CBN News. “And through all of this, there hasn’t been one loss of life. And so that’s just incredible in and of itself. So, I think that’s a focal point where people are readjusting their values.”