Feb 26, 2023 - Energy & Environment

EPA temporarily halts contaminated waste removal from Ohio train derailment site

Ohio EPA Emergency Response member on Feb. 20, in East Palestine, Ohio looks for signs of fish and also agitates the water in Leslie Run creek to check for chemicals that have settled at the bottom following a train derailment that is causing environmental concerns. Photo: Michael Swensen/Getty Images

The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered a temporary pause on the removal and shipment of contaminated waste from the East Palestine, Ohio train derailment site, AP reports.

Why it matters: East Palestine residents have been reporting diagnoses of chemical bronchitis and other health conditions, which they attribute to the Feb. 3 crash.

  • The freight train was carrying hazardous materials, including the carcinogenic gas vinyl chloride, forcing Norfolk Southern Railroad to release and burn the contents of several cars.

Details: The EPA on Saturday ordered Norfolk Southern to halt waste shipments from the site and said the removal would resume "very soon," per AP.

  • Wastewater and soil so far have been transported to Texas and Michigan, where officials have said they were not given an adequate heads-up about the disposal of the toxic materials.
  • The Ohio governor's office said that 20 truckloads, or approximately 280 tons, carrying hazardous solid waste, were to dispose of the waste at a Michigan hazardous waste treatment and disposal facility, but that five trucks returned to East Palestine.
  • A Texas hazardous waste treatment and disposal facility would not accept any more liquid waste, per AP.

By the numbers: About 102,000 gallons of liquid waste and 4,500 cubic yards of solid waste remain in storage on site in East Palestine, Gov. Mike DeWine (R)'s office said, per AP.

  • “Additional solid and liquid wastes are being generated as the cleanup progresses.”

What they're saying: “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,” Region 5 administrator Debra Shore said.

  • The EPA did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

The big picture: The EPA and CDC are on-the-ground in East Palestine this weekend, conducting door-to-door outreach to support impacted residents.

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

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