24/07/2024

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Michigan, Texas officials unaware Ohio contaminated soil, water, taken to their areas: ‘We were sandbagged’

Michigan, Texas officials unaware Ohio contaminated soil, water, taken to their areas: ‘We were sandbagged’

Officials from Texas and Michigan say they were unaware that soil and water from the site of the East Palestine, Ohio, freight train derailment was being taken to their areas.

A Norfolk Southern train with 50 rail cars, 10 of which were carrying vinyl chloride, derailed in East Palestine on Feb. 3. The derailment caused hazardous chemicals to spill onto the ground and sent a plume of smoke into the air. 

Days after the derailment, officials conducted a controlled release of chemicals to avoid the risk of an explosion. Residents were evacuated before officials conducted the release, but have since been allowed back.

Wastewater and soil from the site of the derailment was taken to hazardous waste companies in both Texas and Michigan, and some officials claim that they didn’t get any notice.

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Workers are seen on Tuesday, Feb. 21, cleaning up derailed train cars in East Palestine, Ohio, following the Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern freight train derailment. 

Workers are seen on Tuesday, Feb. 21, cleaning up derailed train cars in East Palestine, Ohio, following the Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern freight train derailment.  (AP/Matt Freed)

A spokesperson for the Environmental Protection agency told Fox News Digital that Norfolk Southern was in charge of the disposal of waste from the East Palestine derailment, adding that “The company supplied Ohio EPA with their list of selected and utilized disposal facilities on February 23.”

The spokesperson said that waste shipments from the East Palestine derailment site is now on pause.

“Within 24 hours of being notified, EPA instructed Norfolk Southern to immediately pause waste shipments from the East Palestine train derailment site. Waste disposal plans, including disposal location and transportation routes for contaminated waste, will be subject to EPA review and approval moving forward. EPA will ensure that all waste is disposed of in a safe and lawful manner at EPA-certified facilities to prevent further release of hazardous substances and impacts to communities,” the spokesperson added.

However, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s office says that some of the hazardous waste has already been taken to the locations in Texas and Michigan.

“Of the twenty truckloads (approximately 280 tons) of hazardous solid waste hauled away from the derailment site, 15 truckloads of contaminated soil had already been disposed of at the licensed hazardous waste treatment and disposal facility in Michigan. Five truckloads of contaminated soil were returned to East Palestine,” an update from DeWine’s office read on Saturday. “The licensed hazardous waste treatment and disposal facility in Texas will dispose of liquid waste that has already been trucked out of East Palestine, but no additional liquid waste will be accepted at the Texas facility at this time.”

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An undated aerial view of the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.

An undated aerial view of the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. (NTSB)

Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., said in a statement that she wasn’t told contaminated soil from the site of the derailment would be taken to the U.S. Ecology Wayne Disposal in Belleville, Michigan.

“We were not given a heads up on this reported action. Our priority is to always keep the people we represent safe. We are making inquiries of EPA, DOT, Norfolk Southern, U.S. Ecology, the state of Ohio, and all others involved to understand what is being shipped, whether these are approved storage facilities, the implications of this decision, and how we ensure the safety of all Michigan residents,” Dingell said.

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans told FOX 2 that himself and Governor Gretchen Whitmer weren’t told about the waste disposal plan either.

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This video screenshot released by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) shows the site of a derailed freight train in East Palestine, Ohio, the United States. About 50 Norfolk Southern freight train cars derailed on the night of Feb. 3 in East Palestine, a town of 4,800 residents near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, due to a mechanical problem on an axle of one of the vehicles. 

This video screenshot released by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) shows the site of a derailed freight train in East Palestine, Ohio, the United States. About 50 Norfolk Southern freight train cars derailed on the night of Feb. 3 in East Palestine, a town of 4,800 residents near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, due to a mechanical problem on an axle of one of the vehicles.  (NTSB/Handout via Xinhua via Getty Images)

“It sounds in all intents and purposes that we were sandbagged. I don’t know how you do that without contacting local officials so that we can number one, know how to respond to our communities, and two, to give advice about what routes to take and those sort of things,” Evans said. “In the phone call just a few minutes ago I talked with the governor and important folks with the EPA, but to my satisfaction – and I’d like to say the governors’ office also got last-minute bits and pieces of information. They weren’t hiding anything from us. They were trying to get information just like we were.”

“It sounds in all intents and purposes that we were sandbagged.”

— Wayne County Executive Warren Evans

Wastewater from the train derailment was taken to hazardous waste company Texas Molecular, which is located outside of Houston, according to FOX 26.

Texas Molecular uses “deep well injection method” to dispose of the wastewater. Deer Park Mayor Jerry Mouton said that the company has been permitted to handle the hazardous material.

“They’ve been permitted for the better part of 40 years to handle this kind of material. (The company was) one of the main sites that handled a lot of the stuff from the ITC event,” Mouton said.

A large plume of smoke rises over East Palestine, Ohio, after a controlled detonation of a portion of the derailed Norfolk Southern trains Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. About 50 cars, including 10 carrying hazardous materials, derailed in a fiery crash. Federal investigators say a mechanical issue with a rail car axle caused the derailment. 

A large plume of smoke rises over East Palestine, Ohio, after a controlled detonation of a portion of the derailed Norfolk Southern trains Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. About 50 cars, including 10 carrying hazardous materials, derailed in a fiery crash. Federal investigators say a mechanical issue with a rail car axle caused the derailment.  (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Representatives from Texas Molecular told Mouton that the East Palestine fire was “was extinguished with foam and water,” explaining that the “firefighting water” was collected in order to “protect people and the environment.” The representative explained that the water contains “small amounts of Polyfluorinated Alkyl Substances (PFAS)” which are found in products ranging from “packaging to non-stick cookware.” 

“I’m very confident this is a great facility that knows what they’re doing,” Mouton said. 

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, however, said that she wasn’t given any notice that the materials were in the area.

“It’s a very real problem, we were told yesterday the materials were coming only to learn today they’ve been here for a week,” Hidalgo said.

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The National Transportation Safety Board issued a preliminary report on its investigation into the derailment on Thursday, which indicated that a hot axle was the cause of the incident. The report states that the crew of the freight train was notified to slow and stop by an alarm system on the train designed to detect overheated bearings.

“After the train stopped, the crew observed fire and smoke and notified the Cleveland East dispatcher of a possible derailment. With dispatcher authorization, the crew applied handbrakes to the two railcars at the head of the train, uncoupled the head-end locomotives, and moved the locomotives about 1 mile from the uncoupled railcars,” the NTSB wrote. “Responders arrived at the derailment site and began response efforts.”

Fox News Digital reached out to Norfolk Southern for comment.