WASHINGTON, D.C. — Cleaning up East Palestine after February’s train derailment is proving to be a long process.

What You Need To Know

  • As the cleanup effort in East Palestine nears the two-month mark, Ohio’s members of Congress are working to push Norfolk Southern and the federal government to get the job done

  • Gov. Mike DeWine’s office reported Friday that more than 26,000 tons of soil still need to be removed from the community

  • Spectrum News spoke with Ohio Sens. Sherrod Brown (D) and JD Vance (R) last week

  • Legislative efforts in the Senate and House face different fates

On Friday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s office reported that although 8 million gallons of wastewater and 9,000 tons of soil have been removed from the community, another 26,500 tons of dirt still sits in East Palestine.

Ohio’s members of Congress are trying to pull off a tricky balancing act of pushing the Norfolk Southern Railroad to lead the cleanup, while making sure the federal government and state partners do their part.

“We’ve got to get it done quickly. Maybe that means EPA pays initially, but Norfolk Southern’s responsible for this and taxpayers should not be on the hook for a cent of this,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) told Spectrum News last week.

Brown said he believes the federal government is, so far, taking the right steps.

The Environmental Protection Agency is supervising Norfolk Southern’s cleanup effort and helping connect the railroad with state governments that have licensed facilities that can safely receive the toxic waste.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan said earlier this month that some states are hesitant to accept it, but his agency is reminding them they are legally obligated to.

After testifying last week at a second Senate hearing about the derailment, Sen. JD Vance (R-Ohio) told Spectrum News he feels the EPA is showing more intensity.

“The cleanup would be proceeding faster if facilities in Michigan were taking more hazardous material. They’re not taking any. So there are still some problems there, but at least we’ve made some progress,” Vance said.

The EPA now estimates the cleanup will be completed in June.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of Ohio lawmakers is trying to build enough support for federal railway safety reform legislation.

Vance and Brown have introduced a bill they are confident can pass the Democratic-led Senate.

In the House, Ohio U.S. Reps. Bill Johnson (R) and Emilia Sykes (D) have introduced a slightly different piece of legislation in the Republican-led House.

Even though six Republicans and five Democrats from Ohio have cosponsored the Johnson/Sykes bill, some holdouts like Rep. Bob Latta (R) haven’t decided yet.

“I’ve just seen just kind of top lines on it. I haven’t had a chance to really review the entire bill yet,” Latta told Spectrum News on Friday.

It’s a sign of the challenges ahead to get any rail legislation through Congress.