Governor Mike DeWine tours train derailment cleanup sites, stops at East Palestine High School

Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 10:40 PM EST
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EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WOIO) - It’s been nearly a month since the toxic train derailment turned the people of East Palestine’s lives upside down.

On Wednesday Ohio Governor Mike DeWine made his 4th visit to the city.

DeWine got an up-close look at how crews are clearing the hazardous waste. His first stop was the derailment site where crews are removing contaminated soil.

He also stopped at two local creeks for an update on water testing and cleanup including Leslie Run, which was one of the creeks where a university student discovered thousands more dead aquatic animals than originally reported by the state.

“If you look at the different bodies of water the further out you get you’re starting to see life coming back it’s an indication but we know that we have certain areas and Fran and I viewed this today where we’re working very very hard every single day to make sure that the contamination is taken care of and it’s gone,” Governor DeWine said.

According to the Ohio EPA, nearly 2,000,000 gallons of liquid wastewater have been hauled out of East Palestine. 15,000 gallons have been shipped to Vickery Environmental in Vickery, Ohio and 700 tons of solid waste have been removed and will be incinerated.

The governor and first lady also stopped at East Palestine High School and met with the superintendent.

“I just think what the teachers have done, what the superintendent or the principal, you know, they all jumped in right away,” the Governor said. “You know, they were doing a lot of outreach to kids at a time when kids were totally out, out of school, going out, meeting with kids, meeting with families.”

The day wrapped up with a joint press conference that included a major announcement from the Federal Railroad Administration.

“Today with the help of specialized vehicles like the one behind me FRA personnel are kicking off a nationwide focused inspection on routes that carry high-hazard flammable trains and other trains carrying large volumes of hazardous materials,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Amit Bose. “It’s gonna start right here in East Palestine. These inspections will use a combination of human inspection and technology combined. We need to keep our nation’s railroads safe.”

Bose said their expanded inspections will evaluate the track quality, signal, and train control systems, and operating practices for the crew, and it will take a closer look at the mechanical equipment used to transport hazardous materials. He said the program will prioritize the routes that carry hazardous materials.

“We will continue to take steps to ensure the highest level of safety and so that no community experiences what the people of east Palestine are going through right now and have endured for the last several weeks,” Bose said.

Ohio Senators J.D. Vance and Sherrod Brown worked with other lawmakers to introduce the Railway Safety Act of 2023. The legislation would require rail carriers to give advanced notice to emergency officials before running trains with hazardous materials, would require trains to have at least a 2-person crew, require stricter monitoring of railcar wheel bearings, and increase penalties for wrongdoing.

Another big issue brought up at the press conference was the community’s continued health concerns.

“I understand the concerns, the health concerns, the anxieties people have given what they have heard especially some of the misinformation that they are getting from social media and other platforms,” said Ohio Department of Health Director Bruce Vanderhoff.

Many people in East Palestine are reporting watery eyes, respiratory symptoms, and skin rashes.

“That’s why we want you to be seen in a medical setting because the symptoms that they’re describing have a whole variety of potential sources,” said Dr. Vanderhoff. “We need to understand what their exposure might have been and what the appropriate approach to treatment for them is.”

Dr. Vanderhoff said they’re offering full physicals and in some cases that will lead to a consultation with a toxicologist or a recommendation for further testing with their primary care doctor. He said they are making sure every person that comes to the clinic is connected to a doctor.

The EPA is hosting a meeting and resource fair at East Palestine High School at 6 P.M. Thursday. Norfolk Southern is required to attend the meeting.