Ohio Governor Mike DeWine called for a congressional review of policies regulating chemical shipping via train in the wake of a train derailment and massive chemical burn.
DeWine told Reporters on Feb. 14 that he has been told that his government did not know the train carrying chemicals was passing through the state because it was not considered to be a “high hazardous material train.”
The 100-car train, operated by Norfolk Southern, derailed on Feb. 3. At least 11 of 38 derailed cars were carrying hazardous materials. The train caught fire and triggered evacuation orders in East Palestine, Ohio as well as in areas in nearby Pennsylvania. Norfolk Southern held a controlled burn of the chemicals on Feb. 6 rather than risk a massive explosion.
“Frankly, if this is true, this is absurd and we need to look at this,” DeWine said. “Congress needs to take a look at how these things are handled. We should know when we have trains carrying hazardous materials that are going through the state of Ohio.”
DeWine stressed that the air quality had been tested and found to be safe. Residents have been permitted to return to the area.
“In fact the monitoring showed that the air was basically what it was prior to the actual train crash,” he said at his press conference, per CBS News.
Ohio is facing ongoing concerns about the long-term effects of the chemicals on the environment.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has reported that 3,500 fish from 12 varying species have died as a result of chemical runoff reaching water near the derailment site.
A spokesperson for Texas Congressman Troy Nehls, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, told Timcast the representative is “in contact with federal transportation agencies involved and looks forward to what the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) preliminary report says.”
“As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, he will examine every action taken and how it has affected the East Palestine area and surrounding communities,” said Nehl’s office. “We look forward to cooperation from all parties involved as we gather all the facts.”
“Authorities have said the water is safe,” Congressman Nehls added in a statement to Timcast. “However, if someone chooses to store water, it is recommended to use at least one gallon of water per person for three days.”
United States Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg offered his first public comments on the disaster ten days after the derailment.
“I continue to be concerned about the impacts of the Feb 3 train derailment near East Palestine, OH, and the effects on families in the ten days since their lives were upended through no fault of their own,” Buttigieg tweeted on Feb. 13. “We will look to these investigation results & based on them, use all relevant authorities to ensure accountability and continue to support safety.”
He added that the Environmental Protection Agency has screened 291 of 472 homes and that “no detections were identified.”
The EPA stopped air monitoring for phosgene and hydrogen chloride on Feb. 14 and says that, following the controlled burn, there is no threat of vinyl chloride fire-producing phosgene and hydrogen chloride.
The National Transportation Safety Board released a statement noting that its official had examined the rail car as well as surveillance videos from the area and determined the derailment was caused by “a wheel bearing in the final stage of overheat failure moments before the derailment.”
“NTSB continues to work with the investigative parties to determine what exactly caused the derailment and to evaluate the emergency response efforts,” read the statement. “The tank cars are currently being decontaminated. Once the process is complete, NTSB investigators will return to Ohio to complete a thorough examination of the tank cars.”