Residents of East Palestine Demand More Environmental Testing After Train Derailment
Residents of East Palestine, Ohio, have been increasingly vocal about the environmental damage caused by a train derailment that occurred in their town nearly one month ago. The train, which was operated by Norfolk Southern, was carrying a dangerous chemical called vinyl chloride and other chemicals of concern that are feared to have leaked into the surrounding ecosystem in Ohio and Pennsylvania, potentially causing serious health consequences.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has responded by ordering Norfolk Southern to fully clean up the site of the wreck. As of Thursday, approximately 2.1 million gallons of liquid waste and 1,400 tons of solid waste have already been removed from the derailment site and transported to sites in Ohio and other states, including Michigan, Indiana and Texas.
At Thursday's town hall, Mark Durno, Regional Response Coordinator for the EPA, told CNN's Brenda Goodman that teams were poised to approve the plans to remediate the site that night, which would pave the way for the process to begin the following morning. EPA is also requiring Norfolk Southern to test directly for the presence of dioxins — compounds considered to have significant toxicity and can cause disease — with oversight by the agency.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Congressman Mike Kelly sent a letter to the EPA demanding the agency expand the one mile radius around the derailment site so Pennsylvanians can receive federal air, water and soil testing. According to him, the current radius has only enabled 22 residences in Beaver County to receive testing.
Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw has also stepped in, selling $448,000 worth of the company's stock to create a $445,000 scholarship fund for East Palestine High School seniors that can be used to attend college or vocational schools.
Although the EPA continues to downplay the risk, residents are urging the agency to test for dioxins, which are highly toxic and cancerous, linked to cancer, reproductive and developmental problems, and immune system damage. Ohio Sens. Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican J.D. Vance have also sent a letter to the EPA requesting that the agency test for dioxins.
The EPA has deployed its Trace Atmospheric Gas Analyzer (TAGA) mobile laboratory to conduct real-time air monitoring and air sampling analysis during the waste removal process. However, without testing, it is impossible to determine the levels of dioxins in the soil where people live in and around East Palestine.
0. “East Palestine residents voice frustrations, frequently interrupt train company official at tense town hall” WISH TV Indianapolis, IN, 3 Mar. 2023, https://www.wishtv.com/news/national/east-palestine-residents-voice-frustrations-frequently-interrupt-train-company-official-at-tense-town-hall
1. “Sens. Fetterman and Casey, Rep. Deluzio urge Norfolk Southern to assist Darlington Township residents” WTAE Pittsburgh, 2 Mar. 2023, https://www.wtae.com/article/east-palestine-train-derailment-fetterman-casey-deluzio-norfolk-southern-darlington-township/43152131
2. “Norfolk Southern CEO to fund scholarships for East Palestine students” WFMJ, 2 Mar. 2023, https://www.wfmj.com/story/48485327/norfolk-southern-ceo-to-fund-scholarships-for-east-palestine-students
3. “EPA orders dioxin testing at Ohio train crash site” POLITICO, 3 Mar. 2023, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/03/02/epa-dioxin-testing-ohio-train-crash-00085339
4. “Norfolk Southern reports giving nearly $12M to East Palestine” WKBN.com, 1 Mar. 2023, https://www.wkbn.com/news/local-news/east-palestine-train-derailment/norfolk-southern-reports-giving-nearly-12m-to-east-palestine/