By Okon Ekpenyong
Following the derailment of a train on February 3rd, 2023 in East Palestine, EPA, Ohio, and Pennsylvania officials have met to discuss current regulations, penalties, and ways to create a more robust response if there’s another derailment in the future.
Alan Shaw, the CEO of Norfolk Southern, spoke before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on Thursday, March 9th, in response to the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.
On Wednesday, March 8, 2023, the State of Ohio and Norfolk Southern announced the establishment of a First Responder Training Center in Ohio.
“The proposal includes creating a new first responder training center and expanding the Operation Awareness & Response (OAR) program, which trains first responders on responding safely to rail incidents across the company’s 22-state network,” per the press release.
First responders in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and surrounding states can gain additional free training from the new safety training center. The effort will also enhance coordination between railroads and first responders in an emergency crisis.
“We want to ensure they have the knowledge and tools to work safely and effectively to protect the health and safety of their fellow citizens,” CEO Alan Shaw said.
During the Senate hearing, Shaw stated that he is committed to continuing to discuss with his staff the critical quality of life issues with their local craft colleagues.”
After the Norfolk Southern freight train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, toxic chemicals spilled, mainly vinyl chloride and butyl acrylate. Ohio National Guard members and firefighters from West Virginia and Pennsylvania responded. Shaw declined to answer whether the company would cover medical expenses for those who went to the hospital for re-evaluation in East Palestine. Due to the ongoing investigation into the derailment, Shaw declined to answer much when drilled by the committees.
Instead, he kept saying how sorry he was for the derailment’s impact on the folks of that community. “At Norfolk Southern, we’re going to be there for as long as it takes to help East Palestine thrive and recover,” he said. “That’s my commitment.”
In response to the agreement to establish the first responder training center in Ohio, alongside Norfolk Southern, DeWine stated, “The derailment in East Palestine highlighted the importance of ensuring first responders are prepared for disasters involving hazardous materials to the safety of communities.”
“Often first responders are volunteers, and their need for the most up-to-date training and equipment is essential,” DeWine also said.
A total of twelve rails and more accidents or train derailments have occurred worldwide since the start of 2023. Five or more have happened in the United States and three of which involved Norfolk Southern.
* Over 1,500 residents were left without power when approximately 28 cars of a 212-car Norfolk Southern train derailed on March 4, 2023, near Springfield, Ohio.
* East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment on February 3, 2023.
* On March 9, Norfolk Southern reported that 30 cars derailed around 6:45 am in Calhoun County, Alabama, hours before CEO Shaw testified before Congress. There were no hazardous leaks or injuries.
“Ohio EPA also updated its dashboard on surface water, completed its health assessment survey, and removed hazardous waste; it held a roundtable with local farmers. It announced resources to cope with trauma”, also per the report.
Meanwhile, local authorities has issued a warning about individuals who are going door-to-door in East Palestine impersonating personnel from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Norfolk Southern. Currently, neither the CDC nor Norfolk Southern have personnel conducting any door-to-door operations.
Step to be taken by residents are:
- Verify their identity: Ask for identification and verify it before engaging with anyone who comes to your home unannounced.
- Don’t share personal information: Never give out personal information such as your Social Security number or financial information.
- Report suspicious activity: If you suspect someone is impersonating a CDC or Norfolk Southern employee, report it to your local authorities immediately.
- Spread the word: Share the warning with your friends, family, and neighbors so they can be aware of the potential threat and take the necessary precautions.
The East Palestine Police Department can be reached by calling (330) 426-4341.
Hazardous Waste Removal
According to the Ohio EPA, approximately 6.06 million gallons of liquid wastewater have been hauled out of East Palestine in total. There is currently a pile of approximately 26,800 tons of excavated soil waiting for removal from East Palestine, versus 3,080 tons that have been removed.
Municipal Drinking Water Results
New data from municipal water samples taken on Feb. 28 show no chemicals associated with the derailment in either the raw or treated water, but contaminants unrelated to the derailment have been identified. All of the chemicals detected in the treated water are well below drinking water standards set by U.S. EPA.
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