September 27, 2023

Ohio senators seek public health emergency declaration for East Palestine


Ohio’s two senators want the federal government to declare East Palestine, the town where a Norfolk Southern train derailed on Feb. 3, as being under a public health emergency so that local residents can get long-term access to medical care.

Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown and Republican Sen. J.D. Vance asked the Environmental Protection Agency in a Tuesday letter to explore designating East Palestine as an area where a public health emergency occurred following the February train derailment. 

About 20 cars involved in the derailment contained hazardous materials, the senators said, quoting EPA’s findings. Several days after the incident, public officials and NS decided to vent five tank cars containing vinyl chloride out of concern that the cars could explode because of chemical reactions happening inside the rail cars.

The senators say the venting of the rail cars and the burning of the vinyl chloride may have released chemicals into the air, water and soil of East Palestine and surrounding communities. Even though there have been cleanup efforts, given the uncertainties about what the long-term environmental and public health impacts might be, “residents’ concerns will remain about potential harms caused by exposure to the dangerous chemicals released as a result of the derailment,” they said in a Tuesday letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan.

“We understand that federal, state, and local monitoring and assessment activities currently report that the air, ground water, and drinking water in East Palestine and surrounding communities is safe. However, we cannot disregard the long-term potential for contaminants to migrate and impact surface, ground, or drinking water in the region, or preclude the emergence of serious medical conditions linked to the exposure of environmental contaminants from the derailment over the long-term,” the senators said.

Declaring the area as being under a public health emergency would enable the Department of Health and Human Services to provide Medicare coverage and other health-related resources to local residents. EPA would issue that determination under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA).

“No affected resident of East Palestine or its surrounding communities should have to worry about affording necessary health care, now or in the future. It is incumbent on us to explore using every tool available to the federal government in the service of that goal,” the senators said.

In response to the senators’ effort, NS (NYSE: NSC) told FreightWaves that “from the beginning, Norfolk Southern has committed to making it right in East Palestine and covering all costs associated with the clean-up. In the months since, we have made significant progress, keeping our promises to safely and thoroughly clean the derailment site, support the needs of the community, and invest in its future. We remain committed to East Palestine today, and into the future, and will continue to work closely with federal, state, and local leaders.”

Subscribe to FreightWaves’ e-newsletters and get the latest insights on freight right in your inbox.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Joanna Marsh.


The second annual F3: Future of Freight Festival will be held in Chattanooga, “The Scenic City,” this November. F3 combines innovation and entertainment — featuring live demos, industry experts discussing freight market trends for 2024, afternoon networking events, and Grammy Award-winning musicians performing in the evenings amidst the cool Appalachian fall weather.

Source link
In this article:
Share on social media: