WASHINGTON, D.C. — It’s been nearly two months since the Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed near the Pennsylvania Ohio border. Crews are still cleaning up the mess and the locals are still impacted by the derailment. A recent congressional hearing focused on the derailment.
“For this small community this isn’t over, it isn’t going away,” said Rep. Bill Johnson (R- OH).
In a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing, the focus was about the government’s response to the Norfolk Southern train derailment on the Ohio Pennsylvania border in early February. The train derailment, which was carrying hazardous chemicals, wreaked havoc in the small rural community. Doctors said the derailment has impacted people’s health and mental health.
“Residents have expressed concerns about sore throats, headaches and anxiety as well as unknown long-term health conditions including the development of cancer,” said Dr. Wesley J. Vins, DPA, Health Commissioner with Columbian County, Ohio.
Nearly two months later, they’re still cleaning up the mess.
“The cleanup has been a bumpy road to say the least,” said Rep. Johnson. “As we speak, there is a many thousands of tons of toxic dirt piles still sitting there.”
The EPA, the DOT and other state and federal agencies have been criticized for their response to the disaster. Some critique them for arriving on site hours after the derailment. The EPA says they’ve been boots on the ground every day since the derailment.
“There has been tremendous progress in cleaning up the waste and moving it out of the communities safely and quickly,” said Debra Shore with the EPA. “Including the removal of 9 million gallons of liquid waste and over ten thousand tons of soil and mind you, 70 percent of the solid waste shipped off site has occurred in the last two weeks. The pace is picking up and the job is getting done.”
Democratic members were upset Norfolk Southern was not there to testify. Other witnesses said the primary focus needs to be the health and safety of the East Palestine community.
“It is a shared responsibility of federal, state, and local government officials like you and I to ensure the residents of East Palestine area are not forgotten, overlooked or minimized,” said Dr. Vins. “Instead, are made whole by holding Norfolk Southern accountable to make it right. This was not East Palestine’s fault.”
The Ohio EPA believes it will take at least two more months to clean up the site.