Biden administration deploying toxicologists to East Palestine
The Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will deploy toxicologists and medical staff to East Palestine, Ohio, to conduct testing relating to the railway disaster that hit the town earlier this month.
Toxicologists and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry personnel will be on the ground testing Saturday, an official who asked to speak on background told reporters on a press call Friday. The aid comes in response to a request submitted Thursday by Gov. Mike DeWine (R) for further public health aid to the town, the official said.
A Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) official on the call also said the agency has secured a commitment from Norfolk Southern Railway, the operator of the derailed train, to cover the cost of all necessary cleanup in East Palestine. DeWine’s office said this week, amid calls for him to declare a disaster in the state, that FEMA has told him the state is currently ineligible for disaster funds. Asked about DeWine’s claim on the call, the official said the agency “continues to have ongoing conversations with the governor’s office” on the state’s support needs.
Administration officials on the call emphasized the commitment from Norfolk Southern to pay for cleanup and other costs to locals who were forced to evacuate, but an Environmental Protection Agency official on the call added that thus far, in addition to the railroad’s commitment, the government is “looking into issuing a legally-binding order” to enforce the agreement.
Several cars containing hazardous chemicals, including vinyl chloride, a toxic substance used in production of plastics, derailed Feb. 3. DeWine ordered locals to evacuate, lifting the order five days later. State and local officials have maintained that the air and municipal well water is safe from contamination, but the state has also confirmed the deaths of at least 3,500 fish since the accident.
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