EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine made his return to East Palestine on Friday, exactly six weeks after the Norfolk Southern toxic train derailment.
The governor and First Lady Fran DeWine visited an East Palestine High School government class and culinary fundamentals class, in addition to getting an update on cleanup efforts at the derailment site.
DeWine's visit to East Palestine was his first since his criticisms last week about the amount of solid waste that had been sitting uncollected at the derailment site still waiting to be transported out. On March 10, DeWine's office reported 24,400 tons of excavated soil were waiting for removal from East Palestine, with only 2,980 tons having been transported out. As of March 16, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that 5,460 tons of contaminated soil has been shipped out.
"The needs of this community are essentially getting lost in all this red tape, and piles of hazardous soil must not continue to sit stagnant in East Palestine," said DeWine last week. "While I understand the steps the U.S. EPA is taking to ensure that the waste is disposed of in a safe and proper matter, the fact that waste removal has stalled is outrageous."
According to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, resumed shipments of hazardous waste from Norfolk Southern have arrived at the Heritage Environmental landfill this week.
Also on Thursday, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee announced that DeWine will be among those speaking at a hearing on the East Palestine derailment on Wed. March 22. DeWine will be joined by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), U.S. Sen. JD Vance (R-OH), and Misti Alliston, an East Palestine resident, on the introduction panel. Witnesses in the hearing will include Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw and National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy.
Here are some other headlines from the East Palestine train derailment aftermath from Thursday:
--Brown joined Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) in introducing the "Assistance for Local Heroes During Train Crises Act" to support first responders on the front lines of hazardous train derailments. The new legislation would create a new fund—paid for by companies that ship and carry hazardous materials—to provide emergency responders, firefighters, and law enforcement with the financial resources needed to replace equipment, pay workers overtime, and address other urgent costs. It would also compel railroads to notify local officials and emergency response groups when hazardous materials are moving through their communities.
--Norfolk Southern announced a $250,000 donation to The Way Station, an Ohio-based nonprofit that has been assisting East Palestine residents with food, clothing, water, hygiene products, diapers, cleaning supplies, and gift cards to purchase other necessities. Norfolk Southern says the donation will help The Way Station establish a larger, permanent location in the East Palestine area and hire additional staff, including a social worker.
“We are committed to doing what’s right for East Palestine, all to help the community recover and thrive," said Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw in a statement. "Through meetings with community leaders, business owners, school officials, clergy, and residents, we are finding ways we can invest in the community’s future and support their long-term needs.”
Norfolk Southern says it has donated $24 million to the East Palestine community since the derailment, with "more to come."