EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WKBN) – A press conference was held Tuesday as part of an interagency effort to inform residents of cleanup efforts on a daily basis following the Norfolk Southern train derailment.
Several agencies were there, including:
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Debra Shore
- Ohio Department of Public Safety Director Andy Wilson
- Ohio Department of Health Deputy Director Lance Himes
- CDC/ATSDR Team Lead Jill Shugart
- FEMA Region 5 Regional Administrator Thomas C. Sivak
- Federal Railroad Administration Public Information Specialist Cory Gattie
At Tuesday’s briefing, Debra Shore with the EPA announced the implementation of the EPA’s TAGA Bus, which is the Trace Atmospheric Gas Analyzer Mobile Sampling System. She said the bus will provide real-time air monitoring during the waste removal negating any sampling to be sent out.
“This means we don’t have to send the samples away for analysis. We can analyze them right here in the bus as we collect them and provide the results very quickly,” Shore said.
The bus will also drive around town sampling air and the public is invited to take a look at it, Shore said.
Shore also announced a new member on-site with the EPA — Warren resident Mark Durano. Shore said Durano will be part of the effort to disseminate information and facilitate communication.
Shore also mentioned the opening Tuesday of the Community Welcome Center at 25 N. Market St., where residents can meet with local, state and federal leaders who are part of the cleanup effort.
When asked if the EPA will implement any type of testing for dioxins, Shore said she spoke to EPA Administrator Michael Regan about that Tuesday when he was in town and said they are in the early planning stages for that but could not say when or definitely if that would happen.
“We’ve heard from many residents about their concerns about dioxins in the soil. We are exploring what kind of soil sampling might be prudent and available for the community that will be folded into the work plan that’s being developed for the overall community response and remediation from the derailment. I can’t give you more specifics right now,” Shore said.
Shore said that dioxin is a secondary chemical and they have already tested for primary chemicals with negative results, so scientists at this time do not see a need to move forward with testing for a secondary chemical.
When asked why test results from well water samples are taking so long, Shore said those are private tests and are being conducted by the Columbiana County Health Department.
“They are taking what is called split samples. Two samples at the same time from the well and sending them to two different labs. I have not seen those results, and I don’t know how long it takes to get them, but that’s private information provided to the well owner. It’s not being made public,” Shore said.
Ohio governor Mike DeWine said Tuesday afternoon that water sample results from private water systems of East Palestine area homes continue to show no harmful levels of contaminants.
The Ohio Department of Health, working with the Columbiana County Health District, received verified laboratory results from 11 additional samples from private water systems as of noon Tuesday. Six of those wells showed no detectable contaminants. Five wells had trace detections at levels well below safe drinking-water standards.
“There is no evidence that these trace detections are linked to the train derailment,” DeWine said.
In total, 126 private water wells in Ohio have been tested, and results have been returned for 30 of those wells, none of which showed evidence of contaminants linked to the train derailment.
Air monitoring continues. Shore said all their re-entry screenings have not found any exceedances for air quality.
FEMA representative Thomas Sivak said they have 66 teams on the ground handing out flyers and connecting residents with services. As of Tuesday afternoon, 84 flyers had been dropped off in Ohio and 86 in Pennsylvania. There have been 719 home interactions so far.
Anyone with questions should call 866-361-0526.
The CDC continues its effort to survey local responders who worked on the incident during and after the derailment and controlled vent.
Monday’s briefing is in the player above.
During Monday’s update, Shore said that they have located two additional sites that can take waste from the derailment. They are the Ross incinerator facility in Grafton, Ohio and Heritage Environmental in Indiana. This is in addition to other facilities in Ohio, Texas and Michigan.
“These facilities are getting us closer to getting all the waste out of East Palestine as soon as possible,” Shore said. “These facilities have been evaluated by the EPA and found acceptable to take waste.”
Andy Wilson with the Ohio Department of Public Safety said on Monday that the full support of the governor’s office is behind East Palestine. He turned to Mayor Trent Conaway and said that he hoped the mayor feels that he has been getting everything he needs.
“We will be with you through this entire process. If you need something, we are here to support you,” Wilson said.
Conaway said Monday that while he understands that everyone is working as fast as they can, he is worried about those who are complaining about rashes and illnesses.
“I know there are questions about rashes and illnesses and we are working with the health department. I know our residents are frustrated, and we are working as fast as we can to get those answers,” Conaway said.
Stan Boney and Spencer Moorhead contributed to this report.