Energy & Environment

EPA administrator says officials won’t ‘second-guess’ East Palestine people’s symptoms

Michael Regam
Anna Rose Layden
EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan speaks to reporters during a press conference announcing a series of actions to secure environmental justice for all Americans at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 5, 2022.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan said officials will not “second-guess” the symptoms that the people of East Palestine, Ohio, are experiencing following the train derailment earlier this month. 

Regan said in an interview on “CNN This Morning” on Wednesday that the tests that have been conducted on the water and the air in the local community have shown that they should not be causing adverse health effects. 

“And so we can provide the data but if people are experiencing things, we’re not going to second-guess anyone’s experience,” Regan said. 

He said anyone experiencing symptoms of illness should seek medical attention from their primary doctor. 

Regan’s comments come just a few days after the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent toxicologists and medical staff members to the Ohio town to conduct further testing related to the derailment of the Norfolk Southern train. 

State officials had said that tests showed the air and water in the local community were safe, but residents have continued to report various symptoms — such as rashes and shortness of breath. Some have also said they are still smelling noxious odors from the crash. 

The train was carrying hazardous materials when it derailed, allowing them to leak into the air. One of the chemicals was vinyl chloride, a cancer-causing substance that was allowed to escape as part of a “controlled release” of chemicals to avoid a potential explosion. 

Regan said he trusts the data that he is seeing, as officials have conducted testing underground, in the air and on the ground. He said a van is conducting testing in the communities affected, stationary air monitors have been “strategically placed” and high-tech airplanes are analyzing the air. 

He explained that officials have tested the air quality in more than 550 homes. 

“Nothing is coming back that shows adverse health impacts. And we are testing for everything that was on that train,” Regan added.

He also noted that the state has “rigorous” testing models, but individuals who receive water from private wells need to have their well specifically tested to ensure it is safe. State officials have told these people to continue to drink from bottled water until their well is tested and declared safe to drink from. 

The EPA officially ordered Norfolk Southern to clean up contaminated water and soil and pay for cleanup costs on Tuesday. The company will also be required to attend public meetings as the agency requests.

Tags East Palestine Environmental Protection Agency EPA Michael Regan Michael Regan Ohio train derailment

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