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Woman living in East Palestine says pet cat died after train derailment

Woman living in East Palestine says pet cat died after train derailment
Woman living in East Palestine says pet cat died after train derailment 03:05

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (KDKA) - It's been nearly two weeks since a train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio and now, some residents are reporting they believe toxic chemicals exposed in the town are killing their animals.  

Andrea Belden said she'd been living in East Palestine with family before the derailment after her home in East Liverpool burned down nearly two years ago.  With her were two of her cats, Pepper and Leo.  

Belden said she and Zack Cramer were in Beaver County for dinner when the train derailed

"We rushed back to East Palestine to get his grandparents, their dog and our two cats," Belden said. 

Belden said it didn't take long to notice something was wrong with her cat, Leo. 

"I noticed that he was breathing really heavy. It was super labored, and it was fast. His heart rate was up. It looked like a panic attack to me," Belden said. "I had laid him down on a little pet bed in the corner and turned off lights and just left him alone for the night thinking, 'you just need time to cool off.'" 

Belden said the next morning, she found Leo in the same spot, having the same issues and rushed him to Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center.  

"They ran some tests and hooked him up to an oxygen tank to help them feel better. That didn't do anything," Belden said. "When they got the test results back, that's when they found out that it looked like he had congestive heart failure."  

According to paperwork by the vet, an echocardiogram showed Leo had heart disease.  

"However, the pulmonary edema has not responded to diuretic treatment as expected with heart disease so chemical pneumonitis is possible," paperwork by the PVSEC said.  

"They also did blood work, and they found out that his liver enzyme levels were at 6.9% and normal for a cat is 1%, so highly elevated," Belden said.  

According to paperwork by the vet, it went onto say liver issues are not typical with heart disease and "Leo's signs could be due to vinyl chloride gasses, as it can cause respiratory, heart and liver issues in humans."  

Belden said she reported to Norfolk Southern what was happening with Leo, in hopes to get help with his vet bills and was told her case was not a high emergency.  

"From Saturday to Tuesday it was when he was in the emergency vet hospital. By the time that Tuesday came around, their estimate for his treatment was anywhere from $15,000 to $18,000," Belden said. "They (Norfolk Southern) said that that's not an emergency. It's not something that they're looking at right now but they would possibly entertain it in the future and they wanted me to file a damaged property claim." 

Belden said she's upset that authorities involved in the derailment are not doing enough to protect the area from the chemicals they've been exposed to.  

"I think the biggest indicator is, look at the animals. You see the fish, you see the chickens, you see the foxes, you see the cat. If everything's okay and safe like they're saying, these animals wouldn't be sick and dying," Belden said.  

On Tuesday, the EPA reported their latest air quality tests showed no levels of health concern and claim after testing nearly 400 homes, there have been no detections of vinyl chloride.  

Meanwhile, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has confirmed 3,500 fish have died.  

But according to new water test results by the EPA, it's reported no contaminants in raw water from five wells that feed into the municipal system were found.  The Ohio EPA said Wednesday it's confident the water is safe to drink.  

Residents that have questions regarding safety concerns are invited to attend an open house Wednesday night with the mayor at 7 p.m. It will be held in the East Palestine High School gymnasium.  

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