EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — Officials continued to talk about what’s being done to protect the people of East Palestine and to hold Norfolk Southern accountable on Tuesday.
Michael Regan, administrator for the EPA, emphasized that Norfolk Southern will pay for the mess they created. The EPA is ordering the rail company to clean up all contaminated soil and water and transport it away safely; he said and is requiring Norfolk Southern to reimburse the EPA for cleanup costs. If they fail to do so, he said the EPA will do the work, but force Norfolk Southern to pay triple the cost it would be to clean it up.
“In no way, shape or form, will Norfolk Southern get off the hook,” Regan said.
Regan said the rail company will be ordered to attend and participate in public meetings and share information with the public. He said full transparency with the community is a must.
“I know this order cannot undo the nightmare that families in this town have been living with, but it will begin to deliver much needed justice for the pain that Norfolk Southern has caused,” Regan said.
Gov. Mike DeWine spoke about how the Ohio EPA continues to test the area’s water. He said the Ohio EPA will test water once a week and will also test private wells upon request. He’s also asking Congress to hold hearings about rail safety.
“There is something fundamentally wrong when a train like this can come into a state and the current law does not require to notify the state or local officials, that simply has to be changed,” DeWine said.
A free state-run health clinic at the First Church of Christ in East Palestine is now open. The church, typically a place of worship, has been turned into a medical facility for the time being. It’s where people experiencing symptoms they believe are related to the train derailment can get checked out.
DeWine said he knows of about 38 appointments that had been made so far at the time of the press conference on Feb 21. Regan said the EPA will continue their water-sampling efforts and indoor air-screenings to residents within the evacuation zone. So far, he said they’ve tested more than 550 homes.
“I recognize that no matter how much data we collect or provide, it will not be enough to completely reassure everybody,” Regan said. “It may not be enough to restore the sense of safety and security that this community once had, but we are going to work together day by day for as long as it takes to make sure that this community feels at home once again.”
DeWine said he wants the community to be reassured that they will continue these efforts even when all national attention is gone.
“We are making a public commitment here today that we will not leave them,” DeWine said. “We will stay here, we will continue to test, we will continue to do what needs to be done in the weeks, months, and the years as we go forward.”
The health clinic is open Monday through Saturday and is by appointment only. You can make an appointment by calling 234-546-7755 or 234-564-7888. More information can be found by clicking here.