"Chug it or we vote for the person that does."
Residents of East Palestine, Ohio, have been justifiably concerned over their health and safety after the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train that spilled loads of deadly chemicals into the environment.
After a brief cleanup, the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the state government and other agencies, have insisted that the air quality and drinking water is safe, despite reports of thousands of dead fish, dying animals, and illnesses in humans.
And now, to prove their point and supposed good faith, Ohio governor Mike DeWine and EPA administrator Michael Regan have visited a resident's home to personally drink her tap water — but something seems a little off about this photo op.
"Would someone want to drink the water?" the homeowner asks, and the officials all volunteer.
"We believe in science, so we don't feel like we're being your guinea pig, but we don't mind proving to you that we believe the water is safe," Regan assured.
After a toast, the two officials, along with congressman Bill Johnson, have a drink — or so it seems.
Although it's hard to tell given the video quality, it appears that both DeWine (front left) and Regan (back center) either barely or don't actually drink the water at all. At best, the Republican governor and the EPA chief chance a cowardly sip or two and nothing more; they certainly don't decisively quaff the whole cups. It's possible they drank more off camera, but we're only privy to what we can see in the footage.
Gov. DeWine and the EPA administrator drink tap water as they visit homes in East Palestine, Ohio following the toxic train derailment earlier this month pic.twitter.com/WlFceeyAtF
— WTVG 13abc (@13abc) February 21, 2023
Asked about the sipping allegations, a spokesperson for DeWine replied "You’re joking, right?" Regan didn't respond to a request for comment.
Regardless, official and unofficial reuploads of the photo op have been relentlessly mocked online. On a Reddit thread, one popular comment lambasted the charade as "Oscar material," with many other users demanding the officials drink the entire glass.
"Chug it or we vote for the person that does," wrote another.
While the Ohio EPA (not the federal) has conducted testing that found the municipal drinking water to be safe, its veracity has been called into question because the water sampling was conducted by a firm contracted by Norfolk Southern.
It's worth noting, though, that the Columbiana County Health District has separately sampled over 50 private wells so far, and says it's turned up nothing concerning.
But to further add to the general suspicion, governor DeWine received a $10,000 donation from Norfolk Southern just a month before the derailment, according to an investigation by the Columbus-based news station WYSX.
Regardless if the tests are bogus are not, many residents continue to feel unsafe — and it will take some more convincing leadership before they can be comfortable again in their own homes.
After the publication of this blog, DeWine's spokesperson sent this additional statement:
The Governor visited multiple houses with Congressman Johnson and EPA Administrator Regan that day. He drank tap water at each of them, as did the Congressman and the Administrator. The video clearly shows this.
I have watched the video you reference. Your analysis of water levels in the glass and goblet is off — way off.
Multiple water tests have confirmed no traces of any chemical concern levels. This includes tests independent of Norfolk Southern. The physical location of the municipal wells — far away geologically from the derailment and contamination site — made it highly unlikely, if not impossible, for chemicals to have travelled to the water supply. Multiple tests have confirmed this.
If any citizens have concerns about drinking water from the municipal system, bottled water is available if they wish to use that out of an abundance of caution. However, the Governor is firmly in the camp that the science has proven the village water is safe to drink.
For the sake of the citizens of East Palestine, I suggest you stop sipping the conspiratorial Kool-Aid.
More on the train derailment: There's a Super Bizarre Coincidence Surrounding the Ohio Train Disaster
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