East Palestine train derailment cleanup update from EPA

The EPA says the major cleanup operations, including remediation, is nearly completed almost nine months after the Norfolk Southern derailment in East Palestine.

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — Nearly nine months after a Norfolk Southern freight train derailed in East Palestine, officials with the Environmental Protection Agency provided an update on the cleanup in the area.

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U.S. EPA Regional Administrator Debra Shore was joined by EPA East Palestine Response Coordinator Mark Durno, Ohio EPA Director Anne Vogel and East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway for the Thursday afternoon briefing at the derailment site.

The main purpose of the news conference was to announce that the long process of excavating contaminated soil from East Palestine is set to be completed this weekend. Officials say more than 39 million gallons of liquid waste have been removed from the site, along with 165,000 tons of solid waste. 

For residents in East Palestine, a big sign of the changes has been the reopening of Taggart Street for the first time since the derailment. “Already, we’re seeing increased traffic and businesses opening up to customers once again, which are all great signs for the community,” Shore said.

The EPA emphasized that although remediation is almost complete, that doesn’t mean they are going away. The agency plans to keep monitoring and sampling, also regular testing of the air and water will still take place. Officials have said those tests consistently showed it’s safe although many residents remain uneasy.

“There’s still more work to be done and EPA is going to be here as long as it takes,” Shore added.

Hours after the EPA briefing, Norfolk Southern sent a release confirming the final truckload of impacted soil will be removed from the derailment zone and transported offsite this weekend. The company added that the next phase of site remediation will include “backfilling excavated areas and continued assessment of soil and creek sheens and sediments.”

“This milestone is a major step forward in making things right for East Palestine and its residents,” said Norfolk Southern President and CEO Alan Shaw in a statement. “From day one, we committed to thoroughly remediating the site, and our plans included listening and responding to the concerns of the community. Norfolk Southern is committed to remaining in East Palestine for the long haul.”

Thursday’s news conference can be viewed in the player below:

Last week, EPA Administrator Michael Regan made his fourth visit to East Palestine since the derailment, meeting with local officials and seeing cleanup progress first-hand. During his visit, Regan noted that 98% of the derailment site excavation had been completed. 

Additionally, the EPA ordered Norfolk Southern to conduct further cleanup and investigative work in East Palestine, concentrating its efforts on cleanup and investigations of the oily sheens and sediments in the Sulphur Run and Leslie Run creeks as well as surrounding areas.  EPA officials say the updated order will lead to “a better, more complete understanding of where sediments are contaminated and will assist in evaluating how to address any remaining contamination in the creeks.”

Norfolk Southern announced this week that costs from the derailment amount to $966 million, but will continue to grow over time as the cleanup continues and it agrees to more settlements and fines. Norfolk Southern expects its insurance companies to eventually cover most of the cost of the derailment that forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes and left residents with worries about possible long-term health effects.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Previous Reporting:

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https://www.wtol.com/article/news/special-reports/epa-update-east-palestine-cleanup-toxic-train-derailment/95-179bf323-9aac-4ed9-8d50-9375a09a9ea2 East Palestine train derailment cleanup update from EPA

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