The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stepped in after multiple states declined to accept toxic waste from the catastrophic train derailment near East Palestine, Ohio.
The federal agency on Friday ordered those states with approved and available toxic waste facilities to welcome the materials. The action followed rejection of the shipments by governors in Oklahoma, Michigan, and other states.
The EPA also mandated that Norfolk Southern speed up the process of cleaning the contaminated Ohio site.
The announcement came two days after Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) called on the Biden White House to increase efforts to return life in the beleaguered town to normal.
Agency Administrator Michael Regan told journalists that he sent letters to all 50 states admonishing that “any attempts to impede interstate shipments of hazardous waste threatens the integrity of the system.” Rejection by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt was apparently the last straw.
Newly released data shows soil in the Ohio town of East Palestine – scene of a recent catastrophic train crash and chemical spill – contains dioxin levels hundreds of times greater than the exposure threshold above which (EPA) scientists in 2010 found poses cancer risks. -The… https://t.co/pOraQ7pLcS
— CJ4America (@GrammyC4Zone) March 18, 2023
The agency explained that there are on average 97,000 shipments of toxic waste materials every month and two-thirds may cross state lines.
Regan added that the EPA “will take all actions to ensure the safe hazardous waste handling continues across the country.” His statement drew praise from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.
Both insisted there is nothing unusual about the shipments leaving the East Palestine area. DeWine told reporters that the toxic materials are “no worse than stuff they are taking every other day.”
He added that some of their regular intake is “a lot worse stuff than we’re sending them.”
Thus far, Norfolk Southern has excavated almost half of the contaminated soil from around the railroad tracks. The company shipped out 6.8 million gallons of liquid waste and 5.4 tons of solid waste.
Officials estimate it will be another three months before the site is completely cleaned.
Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw is scheduled to make his second appearance this month in the U.S. Senate. He will testify before the Senate Commerce Committee, and the company released a statement saying it agrees with the EPA’s “urgency to complete the remediation safely.”
Last week the state of Ohio sued Norfolk Southern for the derailment and its aftermath. The accident on Feb. 3 sickened many residents, contaminated the area and killed tens of thousands of animals.