Republican Ohio Sen. JD Vance has a challenge for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan: If the water in East Palestine, Ohio, is safe to drink despite concerns of contamination, then he should be willing to drink it.
Vance made the comments Thursday while visiting the site of the train derailment that happened earlier this month and led to toxic chemicals being released from the cars in order to avoid a possible explosion. Those gases contained potentially deadly fumes and other dangerous chemicals, and local residents were asked to evacuate the area before being told it was safe to return home.
The EPA has said they haven’t detected any level of concern in the air or the water. But reports from residents in the area have surfaced claiming that fish and other animals have been dying.
Speaking with reporters in East Palestine, Vance likened the scene to the film “Erin Brockovich,” in which a law office employee uncovers that a large energy company has been contaminating the water of a local town and challenges an employee of the company to drink the contaminated water if it’s been deemed safe.
“You know, it reminds me of that scene in ‘Erin Brockovich’ where she puts the water in front of them and says, ‘If you think it’s clean, we brought this water from the community that was affected.’ Look, 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.”
A reporter then asked Vance if he was willing to drink the water.
“No … I think that if I was living here, I would drink the bottled water for now. Better safe than sorry, especially since it’s being provided for free. That’s the guidance I would give. And again, residents are going to make their own decisions on this, but my honest, personal advice is: I’d be drinking the bottled water right now.”
The situation in East Palestine was further complicated Thursday when the Biden administration denied Ohio’s request for disaster assistance over the derailment, indicating that it was not the traditional type of disaster – such as a tornado or hurricane – that typically triggers federal assistance.
Another train carrying hazardous materials derailed Thursday near Detroit, sparking more concern over the number of recent train-related transportation accidents.
Fox News’ Thomas Catenacci contributed to this report.