With the Biden administration in charge, the cleanup of contaminated waste from East Palestine, Ohio, is going nowhere fast.
Debra Shore, a regional administrator with the Environmental Protection Agency, said that the EPA has ordered Norfolk Southern to “pause” waste shipments out of the community, according to CBS.
On Feb. 3, a Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed in East Palestine. Several days later, a burn-off of toxic chemicals that were on board was conducted, leading to an evacuation of the town. Since residents were allowed to return, they have complained of skin rashes and other ailments.
Amid questions of the quality of the air, Norfolk Southern had been cleaning up spilled chemicals and shipping out the contaminated water and soil. Officials in Texas and Michigan have reacted angrily upon learning their states were the intended recipients of the toxic waste, according to CNN.
Shore said all of that is being halted now that the EPA is in charge, according to CBS.
“Everyone wants this contamination gone from the community. They don’t want the worry, and they don’t want the smell, and we owe it to the people of East Palestine to move it out of the community as quickly as possible,” Shore said.
She said the EPA will now decide where waste is shipped.
“EPA will ensure that all waste is disposed of in a safe and lawful manner at EPA-certified facilities to prevent further release of hazardous substances and impacts to communities,” Shore said.
The EPA is reviewing “the transport of some of this waste over long distances and finding the appropriate permitted and certified sites to take the waste,” Shore said.
The office of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Texas will not accept more liquid waste, which means it remains parked near East Palestine.
“Currently, about 102,000 gallons of liquid waste and 4,500 cubic yards of solid waste remain in storage on site in East Palestine, not including the five truckloads returned to the village. Additional solid and liquid wastes are being generated as the cleanup progresses,” DeWine’s office said.
East Palestine residents have vented their displeasure with the federal response to the disaster than engulfed their town.
Last week, Mayor Trent Conaway expressed his anger that President Joe Biden, who has not visited the community, was showering attention upon Ukraine.
“That was the biggest slap in the face,” he said, according to Fox News.
“That tells you right now he doesn’t care about us. He can send every agency he wants to, but I found out this morning that he was in Ukraine giving millions of dollars away to people over there and not to us … on President’s Day in our country, so I’m furious,” he said.
Although EPA officials have said the air and water in East Palestine pose no threat to residents, an outside analysis says nine pollutants in the air are at levels that could cause long-term health risks, according to The Washington Post.
The Texas A&M University researchers said chemicals linked to “eye and lung irritation, headaches and other symptoms” were found, as were some that are potential cancer risks.
“We can’t say whether these levels are causing the current symptoms,” Weihsueh Chiu, one researcher, said, noting that it could take months or even years for any negative health impacts to take place.
However, the EPA “would want to definitely make sure that these higher levels that are detected would be reduced before they left and declared everything cleaned up,” Chiu said.
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