As train operator, Norfolk Southern works to clean up and remove toxic soil and water from East Palestine, Ohio, where one of its trains derailed earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered the company to halt the removal of toxic debris to ensure proper disposal of the toxic waste.
"Moving forward, waste disposal plans, including disposal location and transportation routes for contaminated waste, will be subject to federal EPA review and approval," said Debra Shore, who is the regional administrator for the EPA's Region 5 office.
"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," Shore continued.
According to Shore, until Friday, Norfolk Southern "had been solely responsible for the disposal of waste."
The decision to put the EPA in charge of the toxic waste removal and disposal came after state officials in Texas and Michigan complained that they were not notified that truckloads of contaminated soil and water from East Palestine were being shipped to their jurisdictions for disposal.
According to the Ohio governor's office Saturday, 20 truckloads, or 280 tons, of contaminated soil were hauled to Michigan, with 15 truckloads of toxic waste being disposed of at a Michigan hazardous waste site and 5 truckloads being returned to East Palestine.
The liquid hazardous waste that had already been trucked to Texas was disposed of by a licensed hazardous waste treatment and disposal facility there, but the facility refused to accept any more liquid waste.
"Currently, about 102,000 gallons of liquid waste and 4,500 cubic yards of solid waste remain in storage on site in East Palestine, not including the five truckloads returned to the village," the governor's office said. Additional hazardous waste, both liquid and solid, is being generated as the clean-up continues.
Despite continued criticism of the Biden administration for its untimely and uncoordinated response, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Saturday that the federal government's response "has been really well coordinated."
It's difficult to believe Buttigieg's remarks when FEMA initially declined to deploy a team to the Ohio town because it was "ineligible" for assistance and left clean-up to the train operator, while President Biden flew to Ukraine for a surprise visit with Zelensky and Pete Buttigieg was nowhere to be found until a day after former President Trump visited residents in East Palestine.
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