There is an abundance of “White Noise” in East Palestine, Ohio

Déjà vu after real-life Ohio train derailment parallels the plot of a Netflix film.


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An actual train derailment in Ohio closely mirrors a Netflix movie storyline.

Emma Trueba, Staff Writer

On Feb. 3, 2023, a real “life imitates art” scenario occurred when a multi-car train derailment sent hazardous materials into the air in East Palestine, Ohio. Americans watching the event unfold experienced a sense of déjà vu, given that the plot of a popular Netflix film “White Noise” (2022) eerily mirrored the incident with a fictional train derailment releasing poisonous toxins to a small Ohio town. Viewers have yet to find out how the real-life version of this story will end and whether the effects will be just as hazardous. 

As monitoring of the crash site and surrounding areas continues, Ohio residents – and Americans at large – are left wondering what the ecological and health consequences of this hazardous crash will be. 


The initial response from local authorities was to immediately evacuate citizens on Feb. 3, and a second evacuation notice was put out on Feb. 5 when authorities became aware of the potential for a deadly explosion at the crash site from hazardous materials. On Feb. 8, the Ohio governor’s office released a statement informing Ohio residents that a controlled explosion had been conducted to reduce the risk of a spontaneous one; an inevitable byproduct of this was a discharge of “toxic and deadly fumes into the air on Monday afternoon.”

The report proclaimed that safety screenings of air quality samples of the affected area were reading below a benchmark of concern, ultimately deeming it safe for residents to return home and resume life as normal. The statement concluded noting that the U.S. EPA would be actively involved with private contractors and the state to continue free air quality testing for residents. 

The veracity of statements put out by the governor’s office are also being tested, as some residents reported that nearly two weeks after the derailment, they had heard nothing from health inspectors/officials. 


Similarly to Ohio residents in the fictional film “White Noise,” who also waited for the local government to handle the effects of a catastrophic train derailment and subsequent release of noxious chemicals, residents in East Palestine continue to wait in duress for clarifications on the real-life health and safety implications of this crash. Residents’ trust in those who are supposed to be handling the situation has been strained, especially as Norfolk Southern, the train company responsible, decided not to attend a question-and-answer session with locals seeking information this past Wednesday. 

Drinking water is also a particular area of confusion. Governor Mike DeWine announced today, “The water we have tested comes back good. We are telling people that if you’re on the city water, the village water, you can certainly drink that.” 

At the same time, locals with private wells have been advised to drink bottled water, instead of tap water. Understanding which waterways are truly safe to drink becomes even muddier as the cleanliness of the Ohio River, a passage that supplies drinking water to over a million people, comes under scrutiny. While the Greater Cincinnati Water Works claims that it has not tested for high levels of chemicals, reports of 3,500 dead fish in local waterways, including the Ohio River, are surfacing.

An overarching sense of vagueness from authorities understandably frustrates Ohians, who have concerns about how severe the effects will be upon residents, pets, wildlife and ecosystems. 

While public guidelines should feel definitive and well-informed, official statements seem to be failing Ohio residents, as nuances in them continue to surface.

The inconsistency between official reports and the actual quality of life in Ohio leaves residents in a cloud of dissonance, wondering if there will ever be clear answers on the extent and impacts of contamination, or if their questions will remain white noise in the ears of corporate and government officials.

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