The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Friday ordered states to stop preventing the transportation of contaminated debris from an Ohio train disaster that resulted in a fire from reaching hazardous waste storage facilities around the country.
This announcement follows Ohio Governor Mike DeWine calling on both the EPA and Norfolk Southern Railway to authorize more sites to take East Palestine’s contaminated soil due to some states with sites that are certified to take in hazardous materials not accepting it.
The U.S. EPA had previously stopped shipments of toxic material heading to facilities in Michigan and Texas, greatly to the dismay of certain government representatives and environmentalists who claimed that no one gave them advance warning. Shipments resumed to new facilities in Ohio and Indiana after the EPA implemented additional oversight measures.
Most recently, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt said in an interview on Sunday that he blocked tons of toxic waste from the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment from storage in western Oklahoma due to “too many unanswered questions.”
State governments have no justification for preventing shipments of the kind of waste that accredited facilities regularly manage, according to EPA Administrator Michael Regan.
“This is impermissible and this is unacceptable,” Regan said.
The EPA has ordered that Norfolk Southern pay for the costs associated with cleaning up after the derailment on February 3rd that negatively impacted the environment and the health of residents in the surrounding area.
Fifty train carriages, 10 of which were carrying hazardous materials, derailed as a result of a technical problem with a rail car axle, according to federal authorities. There was vinyl chloride in five of the vehicles. Hundreds of residents evacuated as a result of the controlled release of poisonous gasses that Norfolk Southern carried out on February 6th to stop an explosion.
Officials told East Palestine residents on February 8th that they could safely go home, despite the reports of hundreds of dead fish in the Ohio river near East Palestine and residents complaining of headaches and illness since the derailment.
There have also been a growing number of reports of health concerns from residents following the derailment. Some residents last month said medical professionals diagnosed them with bronchitis, lung issues, and rashes that doctors and nurses suspect a link to the chemical exposure.
This week, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost filed a lawsuit against Norfolk Southern to ensure it pays for the cleanup, any resulting environmental and economic harm, as well as future groundwater and soil monitoring.
According to Norfolk Southern, it is committed to restoring the area and assisting the local economy.
Numerous locals are still concerned about what toxins the derailment may have exposed them to and how it might affect the area in the future. According to government officials, testing conducted over the past month has not shown any hazardous chemical concentrations in the area’s air or water.
According to Regan, the cleanup should be finished in approximately three months.
The EPA details that crews have removed almost 5,500 of the 24,400 tons of excavated contaminated soil and 7 million gallons of wastewater from the area.
According to the Ohio EPA, four sites have been used for solid waste disposal: Ross Incineration Services in Grafton, Ohio; Heritage Thermal Services in East Liverpool, Ohio; U.S. Ecology Wayne Disposal in Michigan; and Heritage Environmental Services in Indiana. The two Ohio sites are incinerating the waste, while the out-of-state sites are placing the waste in landfills.
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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]
Photo “U.S. Environmental Protection Agency” by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.