When big news breaks, it's easy for rumors to get ahead of information. We should all know that by now, but it still happens. Sometimes innocent speculation steamrolls into conspiracy theories. Sometimes one side of the political spectrum attempts to score points. Sometimes coincidental events are misconstrued as being caused by whatever event happened.
The derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, on Feb. 3 has been the latest example.
That's not to downplay the extreme impact of the derailment that involved tanker cars of vinyl chloride monomer, a PVC feedstock, and a later decision to release and burn off the VCM. Environmental experts confirm that 3,500 fish died in local waters as a result of toxic exposure.
At a Feb. 14 news conference, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said the decision to release the VCM was made by state officials in Ohio and Pennsylvania to avoid something even worse, PN's Frank Esposito writes.
"We were faced with two bad outcomes," DeWine said. "We could do nothing and wait for a car to explode … and it would have been a catastrophic explosion sending shrapnel up to a mile. … We also looked at the effects of a controlled release and made the decision to go ahead."
State and local leaders maintain there were no "non-aquatic" deaths, but rumors continue. The Intelligencer in Wheeling, W.Va., reports that the Columbiana County Humane Society has been getting calls from local pet owners. Executive Director Teresa McGuire told The Intelligencer that the sick pets are "suspect," but East Palestine is a rural area, so it is "not uncommon for animals to get into things they shouldn't, but this is an abundance of cases."
The group will collect and share information with railroad company Norfolk Southern and "try to get something done for the animal owners," McGuire told the paper.
For our part, PN will continue monitoring the story and share confirmed information as it is available.