Thu. Apr 25th, 2024

Biden visits site of Ohio train derailment more than a year after toxic disaster

By 37ci3 Feb16,2024


The White House said it plans to use the trip to urge lawmakers to pass federal rail safety legislation stalled in Congress after the Feb. 3, 2023, Norfolk Southern train derailment that spilled hazardous chemicals, including vinyl chloride, and sparked health concerns throughout the area. . The entire freight rail industry has faced serious scrutiny, prompting a focused group of lawmakers to sponsor the bipartisan Railroad Safety Act, which aims to strengthen safety requirements, improve train inspections and increase penalties on railroad companies for wrongdoing. The bill passed the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in May, but has since gone nowhere.

Biden said Friday he wanted to “restate” his support for the bill, noting that trains carrying hazardous waste “must be stronger, able to survive accidents without exploding.”

With any disaster, especially one that affects a rural community with fewer resources, the security of a presidential visit immediately after the incident becomes difficult, so the White House sometimes postpones the trip depending on conditions on the ground. But shortly after the East Palestinian derailment, some local officials began criticizing the Biden administration for the lack of a presidential visit. Months later, the village’s mayor, nonpartisan Trent Conaway, endorsed Trump in the 2024 election.

The White House has repeatedly stressed that the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies were on the ground in the hours after the derailment, and teams went door-to-door in the community to check on residents. Biden issued an executive order requiring Norfolk Southern to pay for any long-term cleanup efforts. In September, he issued another executive order calling for the appointment of a coordinator for long-term recovery efforts.

The press secretary at a White House briefing this week Karine Jean-Pierre Biden said that he visited East Palestine at the invitation of the mayor. Speaking with Biden on Friday, Conaway called the president’s visit “long-awaited.”

In a recent interviewNorfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw said the railroad has invested tens of millions of dollars in the community, though some residents say it’s not enough.

Timothea Deeter, 27, lives with her parents, sister and her sister’s boyfriend in a house about 1½ miles from the site. Immediately after the derailment, they moved to her brother’s house, but returned after evacuation orders were lifted. The family continues to drink bottled water, but has stopped using it for showering and brushing teeth because it can’t afford the cost. Deeter, a member of River Valley Organizing, a local advocacy group, said she hopes Biden’s visit will be more than a photo op.

“I’m glad he’s here,” he said before the president’s arrival. “But if he comes here, he has to do something. You can’t come and take a picture when we need help one year. He was aware of it. He should come and solve our concerns.”

Some residents have asked the federal government to test the air in their homes, but the EPA says it’s not necessary. The EPA said it has collected more than 45,000 air, water and soil samples since the derailment, and ongoing monitoring shows residents are not at risk.

In a report On Wednesday, the EPA said more than 176,000 tons of contaminated soil and 49 million gallons of contaminated liquid had been sent off-site for proper disposal.

Daniel Winston, executive director of River Valley Organizing, is among those who want the EPA to allow indoor air quality testing.

“We don’t know what the health and environmental impacts will be,” he said, adding that he hopes the federal government will provide long-term health and financial resources to the community.

“We’re glad the president is here,” Winston said. “I don’t think it took long for him to leave.”

Winston directed his frustration not at the White House but at Congress for failing to pass railroad safety legislation.

“Washington is still Washington,” he said. “Politics is still politics.”





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By 37ci3

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