Ohio Train Derailment news summary | 14 Feb 2023
Ohio Train Derailment: Latest Updates
Headlines: 14 February 2023
- Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro details his "serious concerns" in a letter to Norfolk Southern over their response to the derailment
- Gov. DeWine says he would be drinking bottled water if he were a resident of East Palestine; the governor also reaffirmed his desire to see charges against reporter Evan Lambert be dropped.
- EPA says chemicals from the derailment "have been and continue to be released to the air, surface soils, and surface waters."
- What is known about the chemicals being carried on the Norfolk Southern train that derailed in Ohio
- Environmental advocate Erin Brockovich says East Palestina's "community needs ongoing attention and resources."
West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito says she will "monitor the situation" in East Palestine
Senator Moore Capito says she "remains in contact" with federal and state agencies tasked with the response in East Palestine.
Ohio borders West Virginia, so tests on the state's water quality are being carried out. To date, no drinking advisories have been issued.
West Virginia has its own history of corporate contamination. The case of the chemical giant Dupont forms the plot of Dark Waters, the 2019 film starring Mark Ruffalo.
Gov. DeWine voices frustration over train classifications
During a press conference this afternoon, Ohio governor Mike DeWine voiced frustration with current regulations regarding train cargo classifications.
The Norfolk Southern train derailed in East Palestine was not considered to have high amounts of hazardous material. This lower classification meant that state officials did not need to be informed that it was passing through the area. Gov. DeWine said that because fewer than half the cars were carrying "hazardous material," the train was not rated as high risk.
"If this is true, and I am told it is true, it is absurd," reported the governor.
When the derailment occurred, not having access to the cargo manifest delayed the state's response. Considering the devestating impact the accident has had, the governor would like lawmakers in Washington to reconsider the cargo classifications and the alert that rail companies should have to make when transporting dangerous material.
Ohio health officials advise vulnerable groups to drink bottled water
State health officials in Ohio have told those who are pregnant or breastfeeding and living in East Palestine to drink bottled water until the state conducts more tests. This guidance also applies to those who receive water through a well, many of which may have been contaminated by chemical run off after the derailment.
Chemical runoff has been found some waterways that feed into wells used for drinking water, including: Sulphur Run, Leslie Run, Bull Creek, North Fork Little Beaver Creek, Little Beaver Creek, and the Ohio River. Residents who are connected to these creeks and runs, should listen to advice from state health officials.
There are numerous disaster movies and for most of us can be a way to sit back and pass the time being entertained. Not so for at least one resident, and one can assume for many more, of East Palestine. At least when it comes to ‘White Noise’ which “hit too close to home,” according to Ben Ratner, who played an evacuee in the movie and became one himself a little over a week ago.
The movie, based on a 1985 book by the same name, is about a family that has to evacuate their town after a freight train carrying deadly toxins collides with a tanker truck and explodes. On 3 February, minus the tanker truck, an eerily similar event took place in the northeast Ohio town, and the Ratner family who had been extras in the Netflix film found themselves living out a real-life version of the movie.
On 3 February, a Norfolk Southern train derailment led the company to burn millions of gallons of chemicals, some of which seeped into Ohio waterways.
The Director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Mary Mertz, told WLWT5 that more than 3,500 fish have died since the accident, according to the agency's models. None of the species impacted are endangered or threatened.
"There doesn't appear to be any increase in the fish or aquatic creatures killed since the first couple of days of the derailment," reported Director Mertz. The state will continue to test the waterways thought to be contaminated by the derailment in the coming weeks.
EPA continues testing, no vinyl chloride or hydrogen chloride have been detected
The EPA released a short statement this afternoon on the agency's continued efforts to test the air quality of homes in East Palestine.
"As of February 14, EPA has assisted with the screening of 396 homes under a voluntary screening program offered to residents, and no detections of vinyl chloride or hydrogen chloride were identified," reads the statement.
While the EPA says that "air monitoring has not detected any levels of health concern in the community," this does not mean that the air is free of these chemicals.
The most recent data on air quality testing can be found here.
Pennsylvania governor Josh Shapiro says he has "serious concerns" over how the derailment was handled by Norfolk Southern
A newly released statement from PA Gov. Josh Shapiro's office says that the state's leader has "serious concerns" over how Norfolk Southern responded to the derailment in East Palestine, which borders Pennsylvania.
The governor's concerns span many aspects of the response, starting with the company's "failure to implement a Unified Command," which Shapiro says created "confusion" and resulted "in a general lack of awareness for first responders and emergency management.”
Additionally, the governor said that the company had provided "inaccurate information and conflicting modeling about the impact of the controlled release," which has created additional complications for local residents and made "protective action decision-making" more difficult for state and local leaders. Lastly, doubts were also raised about Norfolk Southern's "unwillingness to explore or articulate alternate courses of action."
Issues that involve our land, water, and air are bi-partisan. We’ve got to put aside our differences and work to make this world safe for everyone. PERIOD.
The American Dream is dissolving. We can all see it. Our country is cluttered with forgotten towns, and these communities need our attention. East Palestine needs our support.
We have hazardous material moving along crumbling infrastructure through a fragile ecosystem. It’s time to do better for the American people
There is added concern about the dangers presented by the 3 February train derailment that occurred in East Palestine, Ohio that forced the evacuation of the town. The accident involving roughly 50 cars, ten of which were carrying hazardous materials, resulted in a fiery inferno as the contents of some cars were released and ignited to mitigate uncontrolled explosions and get rid of the chemicals.
At the time, it was known that the chemical vinyl chloride, a hazardous, odorless chemical mainly used to make plastics, was present in five of the cars. However, the Environmental Protection Agency has sent a letter to Norfolk Southern stating that its train was carrying three additional dangerous chemicals, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate and isobutylene.
Read our full coverage for details on the air and water testing being down in the area.
As the clean-up in East Palestine continues, reporter David Sirota hopes the public takes notice of the chain of events that made it more likely that this accident occurred.
For years, railroad companies have lobbied leaders from both parties to weaken regulation. Additionally, rail workers have been trying to raise awareness of the threat of these sorts of events as many companies shed workers from the payroll. Those workers were ready to strike over safety concerns this December, but Congress intervened to stop them. A few months later, many are wondering whether increased staff to inspect trains and tracks could have avoided this disaster.
Hello and welcome to AS USA's live blog on the developments out of East Palestine, Ohio, the site of a catastrophic train derailment that took place on 3 February.
Earlier this month, a Norfolk Southern train traveling through the small town derailed, leading the company to burn millions of gallons of toxic material.
The EPA addressed a letter to the company on Friday, saying that the chemicals "have been and continue to be released to the air, surface soils, and surface waters." So far, trace amounts of the chemicals, which include, vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate, ethylhexyl acrylate, and ethylene glycol monobutyl have been found in several waterways, including the Ohio River.
The EPA is carrying out air quality tests in homes, public buildings, and offices across East Palestine. So far, the levels recorded fall within what is considered safe by the agency's standards.
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