Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced Saturday that FEMA will at last deploy a team to East Palestine Sunday to support cleanup of the train derailment disaster.
DeWine, a Republican, made the announcement a near full two weeks since the original incident Friday night in concert with FEMA Regional Administrator Thomas C. Sivak.
‘FEMA and the State of Ohio have been in constant contact regarding emergency operations in East Palestine. US EPA and Ohio EPA have been working together since day one.’
‘Tomorrow, FEMA will supplement federal efforts by deploying a Senior Response Official along with a Regional Management Incident Assistance Team (IMAT) to support ongoing operations, including incident coordination and ongoing assessments of potential long term recovery needs.’
The residents of East Palestine had been previously told they are ineligible for FEMA help because their homes weren’t physically destroyed – even though they may be chemically contaminated.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced Saturday that FEMA will at last deploy a team to East Palestine Sunday to support cleanup of the train derailment disaster
DeWine had said he would file to ensure that Ohio would receive FEMA support should they become eligible.
The Norfolk Southern train with 150 cars was shipping cargo from Madison, Illinois to Conway, Pennsylvania when it derailed on February 3. The accident site is along the border between Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The accident resulted in the derailment of 38 cars, after which ‘a fire ensued which damaged an additional 12 cars’, the National Transportation Safety Board said.
Of the derailed cars, 11 were carrying hazardous materials, including vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate and other chemicals, the NTSB said.
Several thousand residents were evacuated as authorities assessed the danger.
To avert explosion, the railroad conducted a controlled release of the chemicals, which discharged toxic and potentially deadly fumes into the air.
Five days after the derailment, evacuated residents were allowed to ‘safely return home’ the governor’s office said, adding that there would be ongoing air monitoring in the area.
But one week after the accident the Environment Protection Agency reported that the chemicals involved in the wreck were ‘known to have been and continue to be released to the air, surface soils, and surface waters’.
An aerial photo made with a drone shows damaged railroad tank cars scattered about as cleanup continues in the aftermath of a Norfolk Southern freight train
DeWine, a Republican, made the announcement this morning in concert with FEMA Regional Administrator Thomas C. Sivak (pictured)
EPA Administrator Michael Regan visited the site of the East Palestine derailment on Thursday, seeking to reassure skeptical residents that the water is fit for drinking and the air is safe
‘I’m asking they trust the government. I know that’s hard. We know there’s a lack of trust,’ Regan said. ‘We’re testing for everything that was on that train.’
Some 3,500 fish died along 7.5 miles of nearby streams, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources reported.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said Norfolk Southern would be held accountable and should ‘pay for everything’, adding that some people in East Palestine were concerned the company would leave before the cleanup is finished.
‘They are responsible for a very serious train wreck that occurred with some very toxic material, so we’re going to hold their feet to the fire,’ he told CNN.
Norfolk Southern said in a statement on Wednesday it had provided $1.5 million to families and businesses for ‘costs related to the evacuation’.
The worst railroad disaster in recent history happened in 2013 when the brakes failed on a train in the hills above the Canadian town of Lac Megantic. The train rolled downhill into the town and derailed, killing 47 people and causing millions of dollars in damage.
A 2005 derailment in Graniteville, South Carolina, killed nine people and injured more than 250 when toxic chlorine gases were released.
Another fiery derailment happened just outside the town of Casselton, North Dakota, in 2013 after a crude oil train collided with several cars from a grain train that had derailed.
Concerns about hazardous materials shipments grew more than a decade ago after the number of crude oil shipments railroad hauled surged as domestic energy production grew.
A black plume rises over East Palestine, Ohio, as a result of a controlled detonation of a portion of the derailed Norfolk Southern trains
Shawn Mitchell and Braden Cianni volunteer to distribute cases of water to residents
Rail unions say the changes have made railroads riskier because workers are spread more thin, but the industry has defended its safety record.
The White House said it has ‘mobilized a robust, multi-agency effort to support the people of East Palestine, Ohio,” and noted that officials from the Environmental Protection Agency, National Transportation Safety Board and other agencies were at the rural site near the Pennsylvania line within hours of the derailment of the Norfolk Southern train carrying vinyl chloride and other toxic substances.
‘When these incidents happen, you need to let the emergency response take place,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday. ‘We did take action and folks were on the ground.”
EPA Administrator Michael Regan visited the site Thursday, walking along a creek that still reeks of chemicals as he sought to reassure skeptical residents that the water is fit for drinking and the air safe to breathe.
‘I´m asking they trust the government,’ Regan said. ‘I know that´s hard. We know there´s a lack of trust.’ Officials are ‘testing for everything that was on that train,’ he said.
No other Cabinet member has visited the rural village, where about 5,000 people live, including many who were evacuated as crews conducted a controlled burn of toxic chemicals from five derailed tanker cars that were in danger of exploding.
Administration officials insisted their response has been immediate and effective.
“We’ve been on the ground since February 4 … and we are committed to supporting the people of East Palestine every step of the way,” Jean-Pierre said.
The disaster has prompted evacuation orders for many of the residents of the town of about 5,000 people as official attempted to burn off vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate, and other hazardous chemicals. Some residents are reporting headaches, rashes, dizziness, nausea, fish kills and effects on pets
Administration officials insisted their response has been immediate and effective
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who has faced criticism from lawmakers and the mayor of East Palestine for not visiting the site, said the Ohio disaster was just one of many derailments that occur each year.
In response to a request from DeWine and Ohio’s congressional delegation, the Health and Human Services Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are sending a team of medical personnel and toxicologists to Ohio to conduct public health testing and assessments.
The team will support federal, state and local officials already on the ground to evaluate people who were exposed or potentially exposed to chemicals, officials said.
Since the derailment, residents have complained about headaches and irritated eyes and finding their cars and lawns covered in soot. The hazardous chemicals that spilled from the train killed thousands of fish, and residents have talked about finding dying or sick pets and wildlife.
Residents also are frustrated by what they say is incomplete and vague information about the lasting effects from the disaster, which prompted evacuations.