EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WKBN) — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and First Lady Fran DeWine are in East Palestine Friday visiting the school, getting updates about remediation from the train derailment and also taking in a school play this evening.
Some of their scheduled stops include visits to East Palestine High School’s government class and culinary fundamentals class. First Lady DeWine remained at the school baking St. Patrick’s Day treats with the students while DeWine gave his speech.
DeWine said the soil removal in the area is moving quicker than before but “it’s never fast enough.” 1,620 tons of soil were removed last week compared to 910 tons the week before, but there is still much remaining.
DeWine expressed frustration with stalled plans to remove some of the soil because other states were refusing it. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Friday that states could not refuse the waste that is being sent to federally approved sites.
On an environmental note, hellbenders have been found this week and appeared to be thriving in the north fork of Little Beaver Creek, an area that was a concern before. DeWine said this is a signal to the quality of the water.
DeWine said 616 indoor sites have been tested for air quality and continue to show good results.
He also addressed the growing concerns of the property values of the homes 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,” DeWine said. “Norfolk Southern has an obligation to put this community back to where it was.”
DeWine said Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw has agreed to set up a fund that will by run by an independent entity.
DeWine said that he plans to return to East Palestine next Wednesday to announce a permanent medical facility in East Palestine. He said many residents have expressed long-term health concerns and he wants the fund to cover 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.”
Mark Durno with the EPA joined DeWine with a map detailing future soil testing locations in East Palestine. Durno said they have collected over 100 samples over the last eight days and can expect to see results in the upcoming weeks.
“The whole purpose of this sampling event is to ensure that we can collect samples in the areas most impacted by potential particle deposition,” said Mike Durno, a representative from the U.S. EPA.