EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WJW) — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine spoke in East Palestine on Tuesday along with state and federal officials in the aftermath of the train derailment on Feb. 3.
Officials gave an update on the clean-up work at the site of the Norfolk Southern train derailment. Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro also joined Gov. DeWine Tuesday.
During the press conference, officials mainly spoke about accountability from Norfolk Southern.
During the press conference, U.S. EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the train derailment cleanup is heading into Phase two: Environmental cleanup. Phase one was the emergency response.
According to Regan, Norfolk Southern will be held accountable and made to pay for all the cleaning that is and has been done.
Regan said the EPA is ordering Norfolk Southern to conduct all associated action for the cleanup of all contamination in soil and water. The company will also be ordered to safely transport that contamination away from Eeasat Palestine and surrounding areas.
Norfolk Southern will also be ordered to reimburse EPA for any cleanup that has been done. Norfolk Southern will be made to attend and participate in meetings for full transparency on the situation, Regan said.
Regan said that if Norfolk Southern does not comply and help with cleanup, the company will be forced to pay triple the cost to EPA.
“We’re going to hold Norfold Southern accountable,” Regan said.
During the press conference, Gov. DeWine said water testing by the Ohio EPA is continuing. DeWine also said that he and officials drank water in the town Tuesday before the press conference.
When speaking about current lases regarding train safety, DeWine said, “There is something fundamentally wrong.” DeWine said current laws do not require companies to notify states when trains holding dangerous chemicals will be entering their area.
DeWine made a public commitment to the community.
“We will not leave them, we will stay here. We will continue to do what needs to be done,” DeWine said.
“We’re going to do everything we can. There is a real commitment. We understand there are long-term concerns,” DeWine said. “We’re in this for the long run. And when the cameras are gone, we’re still going to be here.”
Gov. Shapiro also spoke during the press conference, saying his top priority is health and safety.
Shapiro said Pennsylvania continues to see no concerning air quality issues but monitoring of Pennsylvania air, water and the environment will continue.
“We will hold Norfolk Southern accountable for any and all impacts to the residents of Pennsylvania,” Shapiro said.
Shapiro said the EPA will have the authority to make Norfolk Southern pay for any work, cleaning and testing that is needed.
“In the face of Norfolk Southern’s arrogance and incompetence, we are fighting back. We stand with the good people of Pennsylvania and Ohio,” Shapiro said.
Congressman Bill Johnson, who represents Ohio’s 6th congressional district, said during the press conference, “There are some bright spots in this tragedy. When you look at the collaborative work from federal, state, county, local, across state lines. I am amazed.”
Regan said, if Norfolk Southern decides not to follow through with cleanup, the EPA can fine them daily and charge triple the cost of what it tool to clean up everything from the train derailment on Feb. 3.
“Justice for me would be making out town whole again,” East Palestine Trent Conaway said during the conference. “Your home is your sanctuary. If you don’t feel safe in your home, you won’t feel safe anywhere.”
Clinic opened Tuesday
This visit came as the Ohio Department of Health opened a health assessment clinic Tuesday at noon.
In addition to nurses, mental health specialists and toxicologists will be available to help residents who have medical questions or concerns related to the train derailment.
The health clinic will be located at the First Church of Christ on West Martin Street along with a mobile unit in the parking lot and is expected to be open for several weeks.
Norfolk Southern response
Norfolk Southern over the weekend launched a website with updates from East Palestine.
Crews worked to excavate 15,000 pounds of contaminated soil and 1.1 million gallons of contaminated water from the derailment site. The soil and water will be taken to landfills and disposal facilities in accordance with state and federal regulations, according to a release.
The company says it has spent more than $5.6 million in East Palestine to date, including:
$3.4 million in direct financial assistance to families
$1 million community assistance fund
$1 million budget for the new community liaison
$220,000 reimbursement to fund new equipment for first responders
Stay with FOX 8 for the latest developments.