COLUMBUS, Ohio, March 21, 2023 (ENS) – Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Lt. Governor Jon Husted Tuesday issued a letter to Norfolk Southern Corporation President and CEO Alan Shaw in advance of his expected testimony Wednesday before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.
The letter, in part, reads, “It is our expectation that you will champion all good faith efforts to improve rail safety, and we are calling on you today to work with legislators to ensure the best possible policy outcomes in these proposals.”
“We also expect you will deliver for the people of East Palestine by fully supporting these legislative efforts until they are enacted.”
On February 3, a 150-car Norfolk Southern freight train train carrying 20 cars of toxic chemicals derailed outside the village of East Palestine near the Pennsylvania border, resulting in an explosion and fire of hazardous chemicals, including toxic vinyl chloride. At least 2,000 people were evacuated. No fatalities were reported.
The letter points to various proposals brought forward by the Ohio Legislature and Congressional Representatives, including two bipartisan bills in Congress – the Rails Safety Act of 2023 (S. 576) and the RAIL Act (H.R. 844).
State lawmakers in Ohio have suggested there be a requirement for two-person crews on all freight trains and light engines, as well as wayside detection systems placed no more than 15 miles apart.
The preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board, NTSB, indicates that an overheated bearing contributed to the derailment in East Palestine, suggesting that more regular placement of hot boxes could have prevented the tragedy.
Preparations for Storm Water Management Underway
The second of two one-million-gallon above-ground storage tanks is being built in East Palestine to manage storm water that enters the derailment site. These tanks will store any contaminated storm water before it is shipped offsite for disposal.
In preparation for rain that is scheduled for later this week, teams have also installed permanent piping that will work to pump clean rainwater around the derailment site to prevent contamination. During the rain event, rain water will be shipped offsite around the clock to keep up with impacted rainwater.
Hazardous Waste Removal
According to the Ohio EPA, approximately 7.5 million gallons of liquid wastewater have been hauled out of East Palestine in total. There is currently a pile of approximately 24,600 tons of excavated soil waiting for removal from East Palestine, while 7,780 tons have been removed.
Municipal Water Testing
Ohio EPA has published the latest data tables that summarize chemical detections in the weekly sampling of raw well water and treated drinking water from East Palestine’s municipal drinking water system. No chemicals associated with the derailment have been detected in either the raw or treated water.
Health Assessment Clinic
The Ohio Department of Health’s Health Assessment Clinic in East Palestine, operating in partnership with the Columbiana County Health District, is operating on a walk-in basis. Residents should arrive at least an hour before closing to ensure there is enough time to be served.
The clinic is located at the First Church of Christ, 20 West Martin St. For information, call the Columbiana County Health District at 330-424-0272.
Coping with Trauma
According to the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, traumatic events, such as the train derailment, can cause intense stress, anxiety and worry, especially in the first several weeks following the event.
Local certified professionals are onsite at the East Palestine Mobile Health Clinic and are ready to assist anyone who has questions or concerns. In addition, any resident can call the Ohio CareLine at 1-800-720-9616 at any time of day for free, confidential, emotional support from a trained professional.
For more information about local behavioral health resources and providers, contact the Columbiana County Mental Health & Recovery Services Board at https://www.ccmhrsb.org.
For more information and previous updates, please visit: ema.ohio.gov/eastpalestine.
Featured image: Removal of soil contaminated with toxics at the Norfolk Southern derailment site in East Palestine, Ohio. The Ohio EPA is overseeing the testing of the soil at the derailment site to ensure that all the contaminated soil is collected, removed, and properly disposed. March 1, 2023 (Screengrab from video courtesy Ohio EPA)