EPA orders ‘pause’ of derailed contaminated waste removal

A general view of the scene of the derailment of a train carrying hazardous waste in East Palestine, Ohio, February 23, 2023.

Free Alan | Reuters

Federal environmental agencies ordered a halt to transportation of contaminated waste from the site of a fire derailment earlier this month in eastern Ohio near the Pennsylvania state line.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Area 5 Administrator Debra Shore said Saturday the agency has ordered Norfolk Southern to “pause” shipments from the February 3 derailment site in East Palestine but stated that material removal would resume “very soon”.

“Everybody wants this pollution to go away from the community. They don’t want the worry, they don’t want the smell, and we are indebted to the people of East Palestine to move it out of the community as quickly as possible,” Bo said. .

Until Friday, Shore said, the railroad company was solely responsible for the disposal of the waste and provided Ohio environmental officials with a list of selected and used disposal sites. Going forward, disposal plans including contaminated waste transport sites and routes will be reviewed and approved by the EPA, she said.

“EPA will ensure that all waste is disposed of safely and legally at EPA-certified facilities to prevent further release of hazardous substances and impacts on the community,” Shore said. She said officials have heard concerns from residents and others in several states and are looking at “transporting some of this waste over long distances and finding authorized and approved locations.” appropriate certification for waste collection.”

The Ohio governor’s office said on Saturday night that of the 20 trucks (about 280 tons) of hazardous solid waste that had been shipped, 15 trucks carrying contaminated soil were disposed of at a disposal facility. and destroyed hazardous waste in Michigan while five trucks were returned to East Palestine.

The Ohio governor’s office said liquid waste that has been shipped out of East Palestine will be disposed of at a licensed hazardous waste disposal and disposal facility in Texas, but that facility will not accept additional substances. liquid waste.

“Currently, approximately 102,000 gallons of liquid waste and 4,500 cubic meters of solid waste are still stored in the site in East Palestine, not to mention five trucks that have returned to the village,” the governor’s office said. “Additional solid and liquid wastes are being generated as the cleanup process progresses.”

No one was hurt when 38 Norfolk Southern carriages derailed in a ramshackle, fiery mess on the outskirts of town, but as concerns grew about the possibility of an explosion caused by toxic chemicals in the five carriages. ship, officials evacuated the area. They then decided to release and burn toxic vinyl chloride from the tankers, sending flames and black smoke into the sky once more.

Shore said the EPA was not involved in the controlled burning decision, but she called it a “well-founded” decision by local and state officials based on the information they had at the time “to dealing with a highly explosive toxic chemical”. .”

Federal and state officials have repeatedly said it is safe for residents to return to the area, and that air testing in the town and inside hundreds of homes has failed to detect any levels worrisome contamination from a fire or burned chemical. The state said the local city’s drinking water system was safe and bottled water was available while testing was conducted on people with private wells.

Despite those assurances and the series of press conferences and visits by politicians, many residents still express a nagging feeling of distrust or question about what they have been exposed to and what it is. how it will affect the future of their families and communities.


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