Disasters & Accidents

Washington steps up response to toxic train derailment in Ohio

Washington, Feb 17 (EFE).- The United States federal government is preparing to send doctors and toxicologists to East Palestine, Ohio, to test for the presence of harmful substances as a result of the Feb. 3 derailment of a train carrying hazardous chemicals, President Joe Biden’s administration said Friday.

“We are committed to supporting the people of Palestine every step of the way and we are going to be on the ground helping them as long as it’s needed,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

The Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decided to dispatch a team in response to a request from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and lawmakers who represent the state in Congress.

Two weeks ago, 50 cars of a Norfolk Southern train derailed in East Palestine, a town of some 5,000 people near the Ohio-Pennsylvania state line.

Several of the cars were carrying highly combustible materials, including vinyl chloride (a known carcinogen), and roughly 1,500 residents were evacuated amid fears of an explosion.

To avert a blast, authorities decided on a controlled burn of the chemicals, generating a towering toxic plume of smoke.

Amid criticism of the federal government’s response, the White House said that personnel from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were in East Palestine within hours of the accident.

The EPA, state officials and Norfolk Southern told the people of East Palestine it was safe to return to their homes after the controlled burn ended on Feb. 8, but residents have complained of rashes, burning eyes and respiratory problems.

The first visit to the town by a senior administration official came on Thursday, when EPA Administrator Michael Regan got a first-hand look at the situation and pledged that Washington will assist the community “as long as it takes.”

“Let me be clear,” he told a press conference, “EPA will exercise our oversight and our enforcement authority under the law to be sure we are getting the results that the community deserves.”

EFE pem/dr

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