EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WJW) – The United States Environmental Protection Agency administrator was in East Palestine Thursday surveying damage from the Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern train derailment and chemical contamination that followed.
Michael Regan met with city, state and federal leaders involved in the response, heard directly from community members about the impacts of the crisis, and discussed the EPA air monitoring.
Federal and state authorities are trying to convince residents that they are safe. But many don’t believe it.
“What would you like to say to the people of East Palestine,” Regan said at a press conference. “You know I’d like to say to the people of East Palestine that we see you, we hear you and we understand why there is anxiety.”
Fox 8’s Jack Shea asked for his response to the decision by authorities to execute a large controlled burn of chemicals after the derailment, which has raised grave concerns about the health and safety of residents in East Palestine and surrounding areas in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
“You know, the controlled burn decision was made by both the governors of Pennsylvania and Ohio, in consultation with how EPA could respond to that in terms of monitoring the air and the impact, and so the state made a decision, and we were prepared for that,” Regan said.
Silverio Caggiano, a retired Youngstown battalion fire chief, was on the State Advisory Committee on Hazmat and Weapons of Mass Destruction, and has been concerned about the role Norfolk Southern has played since day one.
“I had heard they were kind of calling the show, and I said, ‘well, that’s the fox guarding the hen house, the only thing railroads want to do is get the trains back running on the tracks, and they’re going to roll over anybody and everything they can to do that’,” said Caggiano.
One of the first signs of contamination was thousands of dead fish, and now residents are reporting medical conditions that include rashes and trouble breathing.
“I would tell them point blank, go get yourself checked by your doctor, get a baseline medical exam, have your wells, if you have wells, have your wells checked.”Silverio Caggiano, retired Youngstown battallion fire chief
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, state officials’ efforts
Fox 8 is told President Biden spoke with DeWine Thursday, pledging full support of the federal government in the clean-up and monitoring.
“As a result of this conversation, the Governor has requested assistance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health and Emergency Response Team, and the CDC to provide on-the-ground assistance in East Palestine,” according to a statement from DeWine’s office.
DeWine was previously told East Palestine doesn’t qualify for FEMA assistance yet.
“Of course we need to get to the bottom of why this happened,” said Sen. JD Vance (R-Ohio). “But we’ve absolutely got to know that people’s drinking water is safe.”
**For drone video of the fire following the derailment, watch above.
Sen. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) said it’s not a Democrat or Republican issue.
“This is a human rights, Ohio citizens’ rights, to be feeling safe and secure in their homes,” she said.
Latest on monitoring
According to the agency, EPA personnel have been working closely with state and local officials who are leading emergency response efforts. The EPA is continuously monitoring air quality and has helped screen more than 450 homes for any contaminants.
The derailment earlier this month touched off a massive blaze as much as a half-mile long along the railroad through East Palestine.
Norfolk Southern later revealed there were additional toxic chemicals being transported in other cars on the train.
For more FOX 8 coverage on the Norfolk Southern train derailment, click here.