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Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, FEMA give latest updates on East Palestine train derailment

Friday marks four weeks since the Feb. 3 train wreck, which has resulted in ongoing health concerns.

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine was back in East Palestine today as he and his wife Fran visit the site of the Ohio train derailment "for an update on the status of hazardous waste removal from Ohio EPA."

Their time in East Palestine has included a visit to the contaminated area of Sulphur Run and Leslie Run with a briefing on the status of surface water testing and sediment washing, according to Gov. DeWine's office. The governor also stopped at East Palestine High School to meet with the district superintendent.

At 4 p.m., DeWine joined members of FEMA and other federal agencies to provide the latest updates on the situation. The governor pledged "to continue to focus on the safety of the people of East Palestine every single day."

"When I talk to people in the community, the No. 1 desire that is expressed to me is their desire to get back to where they were," DeWine said. "Back to normal, live their lives."

U.S. EPA Administrator Michael Regan was at the high school for a roundtable conversation on Tuesday where he met with students and staff to address their questions and concerns about the train derailment -- one of those being about safety of pets.

“If your home is on a private well that hasn’t been tested, I wouldn’t have my animals drinking that water," Regan said during the roundtable. "I definitely would steer away from letting your pets play in creeks that have been contaminated until they’re fully clean. It’s one thing for me to say we believe -- based on the science -- that certain things are safe, it’s another thing for you all to feel comfortable.”

Despite the risks posed by wells, officials on Wednesday continued to stress that municipal drinking water is safe and that air quality levels remain "normal." According to Debra Shore from the EPA, there have been more than 500 in-home screenings for air quality, and all have showed "no exceedances."

"EPA is continuing to offer the air-screening service to any resident within the [one-mile] evacuation zone who wants a screening," Shore added. "I encourage anyone who hasn't taken advantage of this service to get in touch with us."

Meanwhile, officials are finalizing the process that Norfolk Southern will use to ensure the safe, complete and effective cleanup of hazardous waste under the train tracks at the derailment site. Earlier this week, the EPA announced that Ross Incineration Services Inc. in Lorain County was chosen as one of four locations to dispose of the toxic waste from the train derailment.

According to the governor's office, the Ohio EPA estimates more than 1.8 million gallons of liquid wastewater and more than 700 tons of solid waste have been taken out of the area since the crash. That includes 40 tons at Ross and roughly 200 at Heritage Thermal Services in East Liverpool, less than 20 miles from East Palestine.

DeWine also acknowledged efforts in Washington to perhaps enact stricter regulations on railroads like Norfolk Southern. On Wednesday, Ohio U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown and JD Vance were part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers who introduced the Railway Safety Act of 2023 to, among other things, increase required reportings of hazardous materials carried on freight trains.

"The items contained in that act are ... some of the things that we certainly need," DeWine said.

Friday marks four weeks since the Feb. 3 derailment, which has generated national news and multiple high-profile visits to the East Palestine community in recent days, including stops by former President Trump, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and activist Erin Brockovich.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), meanwhile, released their preliminary report regarding the derailment investigation last week, which you can read in full HERE.

"This was 100% preventable," NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said at the time. "We call things accidents; there is no accident. Every single event that we investigate is preventable."

Next week, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will begin holding hearings about the train wreck, with Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw scheduled to testify under oath. DeWine has confirmed Ohio EPA Director Anne Vogal will also answer senators' questions.

Per the governor, anyone seeking up-to-the-minute information from the state can log on to ema.ohio.gov/eastpalestine.

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