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Ohio Governor Asks Biden for Additional Federal Aid for East Palestine Recovery

'The long-term health impacts are unknown,' wrote DeWine

Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio has appealed to the federal government for additional support as the state continues to deal with the environmental impact of the Norfolk Southern train derailment.

DeWine asked President Joe Biden to issue a Major Presidential Disaster Declaration five months after at least 50 of a 150-car train crashed in East Palestine. As a result of the Feb. 3 derailment, residents were ordered to evacuate and the hazardous chemicals aboard the train cars were burned.

The initial Major Presidential Disaster Declaration was extended until July 3 on March 7. Ohio requested an extension from the Federal Emergency Management Agency on June 13. FEMA denied the request on June 29.

“Currently, no unmet needs have been reported to the State. However, this is due to the voluntary actions of Norfolk Southern,” wrote DeWine in his letter to Biden. “The possibility remains that the voluntary support provided by Norfolk Southern could at some point in the future cease, and this Declaration is needed to ensure that the State and Federal government use all resources available to step in and provide the community with needed assistance.”

DeWine told the Biden administration that “because of the unique nature of this incident the State is still working to identify current needs and evaluate the future impacts this disaster will have on the community.”

“The incident had immediate physical and mental health effects on the community, and the Ohio Department of Health, engaged with the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a clinic in the community,” wrote DeWine. “However, the long-term health impacts are unknown.”

The Republican governor also noted that the derailment severely impacted the region’s economy, causing declining property values and deterring businesses from investing in the area. He also informed Biden that the Ohio EMA has distributed $9.3 million in public assistance.

DeWine has asked the federal government to grant additional funding for multiple programs including the Individual Assitance Program for Columbiana County, the Village of East Palestine, and the statewide Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. 

The derailed train cars were transporting a number of chemicals, including ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate, and isobutylene. The decision to burn the substances sparked major concern among area residents despite the Biden administration’s declaration that the air was safe

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources estimated in the days after the derailment that seven and a half miles of the stream were affected by the train derailment and that the chemical release killed approximately 3,500 fish.

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