The apparent mismanagement of the “Ohio Chernobyl” once again meant waiting for outrage before addressing concerns as a stop was put on transporting hazardous waste from the train derailment site to Texas and Michigan only after officials found out it had already happened.
“We were sandbagged,” Wayne County Executive Warren Evans (D-MI) said during a Friday press conference.
Public officials expressed their outrage after learning that truckloads of contaminated soil and water had been hauled away from East Palestine, Ohio where a Norfolk Southern train carrying chemicals like vinyl chloride had derailed on February 3. Shipments of both had been taken to the U.S. Ecology Waste Disposal in Belleville, Michigan while water collected from dousing the fires at the crash was transported to Texas Molecular located in Deer Park, Texas outside Houston.
A spokesperson from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pointed a finger to Norfolk Southern for the evident mismanagement of the contaminated materials as they said in a statement to Fox News Digital, “The company (Norfolk Southern) supplied Ohio EPA with their list of selected and utilized disposal facilities on February 23.”
“Within 24 hours of being notified, EPA instructed Norfolk Southern to immediately pause waste shipments from the East Palestine train derailment site,” the statement continued. “Waste disposal plans, including disposal location and transportation routes for contaminated waste, will be subject to EPA review and approval moving forward. 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.”
During a Friday press conference, Evans was far from understanding of the explanation as he detailed even Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) had been left out of the loop.
“It sounds in all intents and purposes that we were sandbagged. I don’t know how you do that without contacting local officials so that we can number one, know how to respond to our communities, and two, to give advice about what routes to take and those sort of things,” he said.
“In the phone call just a few minutes ago I talked with the governor and important folks with the EPA, but to my satisfaction — and I’d like to say the governor’s office also got last-minute bits and pieces of information. They weren’t hiding anything from us. They were trying to get information just like we were,” Evans added.
Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) echoed that as she released her own statement that read, “We were not given a heads up on this reported action. Our priority is to always keep the people we represent safe. We are making inquires of EPA, DOT, Norfolk Southern, U.S. Ecology, the state of Ohio, and all others involved to understand what is being shipped, whether these are approved storage facilities, the implications of this decision, and how we ensure the safety of all Michigan residents.”
The same was true in Texas where Harris County Judge Lina Hildalgo explained she had learned about the water shipments from a government agency, but from a member of the press.
“It’s a very real problem, we were told yesterday the materials were coming only to learn today they’ve been here for a week,” she said.
Saturday, Gov. Mike DeWine’s (R-OH) office also lay responsibility on Norfolk Southern and detailed, “Of the twenty truckloads (approximately 280 tons) of hazardous solid waste hauled away from the derailment site, 15 truckloads of contaminated soil had already been disposed of at the licensed hazardous waste treatment and disposal facility in Michigan. Five truckloads of contaminated soil were returned to East Palestine.”
“The licensed hazardous waste treatment and disposal facility in Texas will dispose of liquid waste that has already been trucked out of East Palestine, but no additional liquid waste will be accepted at the Texas facility at this time.”
Meanwhile, despite assurances that the area was safe for residents to go about their daily lives, the governor’s office also noted that four water monitoring wells had been installed “out of an abundance of caution” to continue sampling the groundwater to see if contaminants are making their way into the municipal water supply. “Both the Ohio EPA and a private contractor are conducting this sampling and will send the samples to separate laboratories. Sampling will take place once a week, and results are expected within seven days.”
The governor’s office estimated “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.” That did not account for additional waste that has yet to be collected as cleanup continues.
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