Biden Admin Plans Visit To Ohio Year After Train Accident
Nearly one year after the terrifying derailment of a train carrying toxic chemicals in East Palestine, Ohio, the White House is touting its success in responding to the disaster. This announcement comes as President Biden is scheduled to visit the site for the first time in the upcoming month. The derailment occurred in early February 2023, causing fear of widespread contamination of the region’s air and water supply. The federal government, led by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), took immediate action to mitigate the fallout and prevent any further harm to the community.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg spoke to reporters on Wednesday, highlighting the government’s efforts to prioritize safety in their response. The Department of Transportation, along with other federal agencies, has worked tirelessly to clear the derailment site, remove waste, and implement new rail safety measures. “Safety is our department’s main reason for being,” Buttigieg stated. “All of this was at stake and continues to be at stake in the response to what happened one year ago.”
EPA Administrator Michael Regan also spoke at the press conference, acknowledging the challenges faced over the past year. “For many, it’s been a year of fear, uncertainty, and change,” Regan stated. “That’s why I’m thankful for the leadership of President Biden, who mobilized this whole-of-government response to support the people of East Palestine, Ohio. We worked hard to hold Norfolk Southern accountable, clean up this mess, and restore this tight-knit community.”
The White House also announced that Biden would be visiting the site in East Palestine in the coming month to witness the ongoing cleanup efforts. This visit was promised by White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre shortly after the derailment occurred, but plans never came to fruition last year. When asked about the delay, Biden stated that he “hasn’t been able to break” from his busy schedule.
According to recent federal data, the EPA has shipped an estimated 176,787 tons of solid waste and 44.4 million gallons of wastewater from the site since February. The remaining contaminated soil has been excavated and backfilled as test results indicate that the area is safe. Along with the cleanup efforts, the EPA has been testing air quality, supporting local community members, investigating the cause of the derailment, and monitoring potential health impacts to nearby residents. The Department of Transportation, along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Agriculture, have also played a crucial role in the response efforts.
FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell expressed the agency’s commitment to supporting the community of East Palestine as they transition to long-term recovery. “It’s our responsibility to do everything possible to help them recover,” Criswell stated. “We will continue to do all in our power to support the families and small businesses of East Palestine.”
However, despite the government’s efforts, there has been criticism of the administration for not declaring a national disaster. Ohio officials repeatedly requested this declaration, but it was never granted. In July, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine sent a letter to Biden, urging him to approve the request. In August, Senator Sherrod Brown also wrote to FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, asking for the agency to grant the disaster declaration. However, the official response has been that it is “premature to judge what additional federal resources may be required at this time.”
On February 3, 2023, a train owned by Norfolk Southern Railroad derailed in East Palestine, releasing a dangerous colorless gas called vinyl chloride. While residents were initially evacuated and told it was safe to return, experts expressed concerns about the safety of the air and water. “This really looks like a nuclear winter,” local hazardous materials specialist Sil Caggiano told Fox News at the time. “Pretty much, yeah, we nuked this town with chemicals.”
As the community of East Palestine continues to recover from this traumatic event, the federal government will continue to provide support and resources. President Biden’s upcoming visit will not only serve as a reminder of the disaster that occurred one year ago but also as a demonstration of the government’s ongoing commitment to the safety and well-being of its citizens.