Ohio Governor Mike DeWine visited East Palestine, Ohio to receive remediation updates on Friday, exactly six weeks since a Norfolk Southern train derailed wreaking havoc on the environment and negatively impacting the health of residents.
Although soil is being removed in the area more swiftly than before, according to DeWine, “it’s never fast enough.” Despite the fact that 1,620 tons of earth were removed last week as opposed to 910 tons the week before, there is still a substantial amount.
DeWine voiced his dissatisfaction with the efforts that have been delayed to remove some of the soil. According to DeWine, some states with sites that are certified to take in hazardous materials are not accepting it.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday ordered states to stop preventing the transportation of contaminated debris from the Ohio train disaster from reaching hazardous waste storage facilities around the country.
In terms of the environment, this week saw the discovery of hellbenders, a species of aquatic giant salamander, in the north fork of Little Beaver Creek, a location that had previously raised alarm. According to DeWine, this is a sign of the water’s quality.
“They are a signal about the quality of the water. They do not flourish, they do not live if the quality of the water is not good,” DeWine said.
According to DeWine, tests on the air quality at 616 indoor locations continue to yield positive results.
He also addressed the escalating worries over the home values in East Palestine.
“If the land values do in fact go down therefore taxes will be down and less money will be going to the school this is a big concern. We expect Norfolk Southern to be accountable for that and fill whatever that gap is so the school doesn’t suffer because of that train wreck. Norfolk Southern has an obligation to put this community back to where it was,” DeWine said.
DeWine stated that he will visit East Palestine again on March 22nd to make an official announcement on the establishment of a long-term medical facility there. He stated that many locals had raised long-term health worries, and he wants the fund to address these concerns well into the future.
“I think that’s where we need to end up, I think that’s where we’re going to end up, ” DeWine said.
On Thursday, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee announced that DeWine will also be among those speaking at a hearing on the East Palestine derailment on March 22nd. Other scheduled speakers include U.S. Senators JD Vance (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Misti Allison, an East Palestine resident, on the introduction panel. Witnesses in the hearing will include Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw and National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy.
Mark Durno joined DeWine with the EPA, who brought a chart showing the sites of upcoming soil tests in East Palestine. In the previous eight days, they have collected over 100 samples, according to Durno, and they should start seeing results in the coming weeks.
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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]