Not even a full week after FEMA initially deemed East Palestine, Ohio, where a train full of toxic chemicals derailed, "ineligible" for assistance, 15,000 pounds of contaminated soil and 1.1 million gallons of contaminated water have been removed from the site of the train derailment.
The excavation and removal of the soil and water came shortly after an Ohio senator warned residents living in close proximity to the derailment site not to drink or bathe in the water.
According to the train operator, Norfolk Southern, the excavated soil and water will be transported to landfills and disposal facilities that are "designed to accept it safely in accordance with state and federal regulations."
"Additionally, a series of pumps have been placed upstream to reroute Sulphur Run around the derailment site. The affected portion of Sulphur Run has been dammed to protect water downstream," Norfolk Southern said.
"Environmental teams are treating the impacted portions of Sulphur Run with booms, aeration, and carbon filtration units," the train operator said, adding that clean-up teams are "also working with stream experts to collect soil and groundwater samples to develop a comprehensive plan to address any contamination that remains in the stream banks and sediment."
The massive contamination occurred when a train carrying about 50 freight cars, many with toxic chemicals, derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, on its way to Conway, Pennsylvania, from Madison, Illinois.
Immediately after the derailment, state officials evacuated a 1-mile radius around the derailment site, but lifted the evacuation order for residents after a controlled burn and subsequent explosion of the derailed train cars on February 6. Several cars involved in the derailment were carrying toxic chemicals, including, vinyl chloride, ethylhexyl acrylate, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, and butyl acrylate.
The controlled burn not only released the aforementioned chemicals into the air surrounding East Palestine but also phosgene and hydrogen chloride.
At the time the order was lifted, government officials reassured residents that the air and water were safe according to testing metrics, however, upon returning to their homes, several residents reported headaches, nausea, and other concerning health issues. Local wildlife also began dying in droves, with a local creek becoming filled with dead fish and frogs and a resident in the nearby town of North Lima reporting that all of her chickens had mysteriously died shortly after the derailment.
As concerns mount and Norfolk Southern works to remove the contamination, Ohio State Senator, Michael Rulli (R) warned residents within 10 miles of the derailment site not to drink or bathe in the local water supply. Rulli said that there are concerns about "cancer in the next five, 10, 15, 20 years," among residents who live near the site.
"So what I'm suggesting is that everyone goes as far away as you can and get a hotel room," Rulli recommended. Unfortunately, East Palestine is largely a blue-collar town, and many of its residents have struggled to afford bottled water and have no way to afford a hotel room far away from the contamination site that the railroad has now made their home.
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