CLEVELAND — Ohio EPA Director Anne Vogel said she still has daily meetings about the status of the cleanup in East Palestine.
She said both state and federal agencies are still there, having removed more than 90,000 tons of contaminated soil, and they’re shipping away contaminated liquids.
“The presence is still there, right?" Vogel said. "Ohio EPA is there, like physically there, on the ground. The unified command structure is still in place. There’s still a public health advisory team that’s part of that unified command. So everything that started in February is still happening."
Vogel said the tracks are fixed, and trains are now running again. Now, she said, they’re approximately 60% finished removing any contaminated soil. She estimates it will take a few more weeks before they dig out the rest.
“And the process again is that they excavate and then they do confirmation sampling to make sure that there’s no contamination,” Vogel said. “And then if there is, then they dig some more.”
Gov. Mike DeWine said the cleanup has been steady, but he’s not content yet.
“We’d like to have everything over with obviously by now, actually months ago,” DeWine said. “I’m kind of an impatient guy, but I think it is steady. It is certainly moving forward, and so I don’t know if satisfied is the right word.”
Even when the cleanup crews and environmental officials pack up and leave, DeWine said there is still uncertainty for residents on whether there will be any long-term health effects that happen over time from the derailment. So he said the state will have a presence there after everything’s been cleaned up.
“You know, our commitment is a long-term commitment,” DeWine said. “We established, for example, a clinic there. That’s something that we are subsidizing. We’re working with the local hospital to really get that rolling.”
Both DeWine and Vogel said that Norfolk Southern will cover all cleanup costs.