Feb 25, 2023 - Politics & Policy

East Palestine residents seeing outreach from FEMA, CDC after derailment

Photo of crews disposing of wreckage from a burnt train car

Crews dispose of wreckage from the Norfolk Southern train at a yard in East Palestine, Ohio on Feb. 16, 2023. Photo: Matthew Hatcher/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Federal teams including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be on the ground in East Palestine, Ohio this weekend conducting door-to-door outreach to support residents impacted by the train derailment.

Driving the news: The move comes amid mounting concern over health risks and toxic effects from the crash, which forced operator Norfolk Southern to release and burn hazardous contents from some of the train cars.

Details: Teams will be meeting with residents to connect them with resources from government and nonprofit organizations, gather intel about ongoing concerns and "identify any unmet needs," according to a press release from the Biden administration.

  • The EPA has also announced a new hotline set up to provide services including guidance for air monitoring, water sampling and cleaning services. Those seeking assistance can contact 866-361-0526 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST.

The big picture: The East Palestine community is already seeing the aftereffects of the train derailment, with residents and workers near the site reporting diagnoses of chemical bronchitis and other conditions possibly connected to exposure to some toxins, NBC News reports.

  • At a hearing held by Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R) on Thursday — East Palestine is on the edge of Pennsylvania’s western border — multiple residents spoke about symptoms they attributed to the crash and subsequent chemical release, including burning lips, itchy eyes, rashes and diarrhea.
  • Several expressed fears about air, water and soil contamination. "We’re afraid to live in our homes," Amanda Kemmer testified.

Worth noting: A preliminary report released this week by the National Transportation Safety Board found that a wheel bearing, which connects the wheel to its axis, overheated on a hopper car toward the front of the train and ultimately caused the derailment.

Go deeper: Over 43,000 aquatic animals estimated dead after Ohio train derailment

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