COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Gov. Mike DeWine held a media briefing Friday morning to discuss the latest developments on the train derailment in East Palestine that occurred two weeks ago.
The Governor addressed air and water quality, including municipal, private, and area waterways, health and human services concerns, and questions about federal aid. He was joined by Department of Health Director Bruce Vanderhoff and Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Director Lori Criss.
On Feb. 3, 50 cars on a Norfolk Southern freight train derailed in East Palestine. Among the cars were 10 carrying hazardous materials. This led DeWine to issue an evacuation order for people living nearby in preparation for a chemical release.
Two weeks later, the cleanup continues as contaminated soil and liquid were still being removed from the area.
Previous reports on the East Palestine train derailment cleanup efforts can be seen in the player below.
DeWine said that over 500 homes have been tested for air contaminants and so far environmental experts have detected no contaminants, either outside or inside the specific homes.
Vanderhoff confirmed this at the briefing.
“We have simply not found elevations of these volatile organic compounds (VOC) that would lead us to suspect any significant risk related to the tested air and water,” Vanderhoff said.
DeWine added that while approximately 75 homes did show some elevated VOC, further testing revealed that those contaminants were not from the train derailment.
“Nothing from the train derailment was in those homes or in the streets, however the monitoring will continue,” DeWine said.
View a replay of Gov. Mike DeWine’s press conference on the train derailment in the video player below.
DeWine also confirmed that water from municipal sources is safe to drink and that it was never believed that the municipal water was contaminated, but due to an abundance of caution the Ohio EPA analyzed samples and it was determined the water was safe.
“You do not need to drink bottled water if you are on municipal water,” he said.
DeWine did recommend that if residents get their water from private well they are encouraged to drink bottled water until it is confirmed safe to drink from the private well. So far 38 private wells have been tested, but those results are not in yet.
The Governor confirmed that more testing of the Ohio River came back negative for a chemical plume that was detected earlier in the week, albeit in trace amounts that did not pose a threat.
The only contamination from the crash was in a small area at Sulfur Run, near the crash site. DeWine said that section of Sulfur Run was secured shortly after the derailment and fresh water has since been rerouted around the affected area.
Although DeWine confirmed at the press conference that East Palestine did not qualify for federal assistance from FEMA, in a joint statement Friday evening, DeWine and FEMA Regional Administrator Thomas Sivak said FEMA will deploy a Regional Incident Management Assistance Team to support ongoing operations at the site, including “incident coordination and ongoing assessments of potential long-term recovery needs.”
D said anyone with health questions or concerns because of the crash will be able to visit a local clinic beginning next week. The clinic will be set up with the assistance of experts from the U.S. Health and Human Services and the Ohio Department of Heath. More information can be found at www.ema.ohio.gov/eastpalestine.
As well, anyone with questions or concerns about air and water quality can call 330-849-3919.
“We know the last several weeks have taken a tremendous toll on residents on East Palestine,” DeWine said. “They’ve suffered a great deal. This has been a traumatic time for them.”
Earlier this week, DeWine said he learned from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio that the train was not considered a highly hazardous train, which meant there was no requirement to notify residents the train was coming through. He criticized this classification, calling it “absurd” and has asked Congress to look into the matter. He also said he talked to President Joe Biden, who authorized federal support if needed.
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, an estimated 3,500 fish from 12 species have died nearby. An official with ODNR said there is no evidence of non-aquatic animals suffering due to the effects of the derailment.
Regarding chemical concerns, an official with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency said there has been no detections of vinyl chloride or other hazardous chemicals in the waterways. A chemical plume is moving down the Ohio River, but the Ohio EPA assures it does not pose threat to drinking water systems.