EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WJW) — Nearly two weeks after the fiery derailment of a Norfolk Southern train, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency visited East Palestine, giving residents assurances that the agency will make sure the railroad is held accountable for cleanup and testing at the site.
“I want this community to know that they don’t have to manage this issue on their own, as President [Joe] Biden told Governor [Mike] DeWine, anything this state needs — we will be here to help,” said Michael Regan.
“As Governor DeWine and I discussed last night, we are going to get through this as a team, and at the same time, we are absolutely going to hold Norfolk Southern accountable — and I can promise you that,” he added.
Accompanying Regan on Thursday was U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Cleveland, D-Ohio.
“In the end, the important thing to me is that — as the administrator said — that we hold Norfolk Southern accountable. That means accountable for the tests when people move back in, accountable for all of the cleanup that will take weeks — I dont know how long, but at least weeks — to assure people that the water is safe and the air is safe and the soil is safe for their children and for the 4,000 residents here,” said Brown.
DeWine on Thursday reported that 3,150 cubic yards of contaminated soil have been removed from the area of the derailment. This soil has been moved into containers and stockpiled for proper disposal. Once the impacted soil is removed, the remaining soil is covered with mulch to absorb any additional seepage and to absorb the chemicals. The mulch is regularly replaced to ensure continued absorption. The chemical-laden mulch is then stockpiled for proper disposal. The process to remove contaminated soil and control seepage will continue.
A total of 942,000 gallons of contaminants and contaminated liquid have been removed from the immediate site. It is estimated that 110,000 gallons of contaminants at the site will be removed for proper disposal within the next 24 hours.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has already reported that at least 3,500 fish are estimated to have been killed over a 7 1/2-mile long stretch of area creeks.
On Thursday, the chance of rain increased concerns that contamination could run farther downstream and get pushed deeper into already contaminated soil.
The governor’s office reports that in anticipation of rainfall, emergency response teams have put plans in place to prevent contaminants that have not yet been removed from the derailment site from washing into local waterways during the storms.
Sulphur Run creek has been dammed both west of the crash site and east of the crash site, leaving an empty creek bed between the two dams in the area of the crash. Teams are pumping clean creek water from the point of the eastern dam, funneling it away from the dry creek bed area, and releasing it back into Sulphur Run at the western dam. This allows clean water to bypass the area of the derailment and prevents clean creek water from picking up contaminants and carrying them into other waterways.
Also in East Palestine on Thursday, U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance of Cincinnati, R-Ohio, visited one of the creeks where he saw the obvious chemical sheen on the water.
“We did go to Leslie Run creek to see what it looks like and I have got to say — it really is worrying. I mean, I cant imagine being a member of this community, seeing dead fish, dead worms in the community you live in, where your children play in that creek. That is a problem,” said Vance.
Ohio EPA Director Anne Vogel on Thursday repeated the findings of recent studies that showed there is no contamination of the village’s drinking water.
And one day after the railroad backed out of an appearance at a community open house, Its president and CEO issued an open letter to the people of East Palestine, saying the company will not back out of its responsibilities.
“We are here and will stay here for as long as it takes to ensure your safety and to help East Palestine recover and thrive,” said Alan Shaw in his letter.
“I will be here as often as it takes and most importantly, I will be watching Norfolk Southern, watching them and letting them know that I’m watching them is important as anything I can do,” said Brown.