Governor Mike DeWine (R-OH) claimed that air quality near the Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, was similar both before the incident and after a controlled burn of chemicals at the site, even as residents continue to report serious health issues.
Local and state authorities previously evacuated all residents within one mile of the crash and started a controlled burn of spilled industrial chemicals to decrease the risk of an explosion. Vinyl chloride, a carcinogen that can contaminate water supplies, was released from five train cars in the form of massive plumes of dark smoke visible throughout eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, raising worries about air and water quality in the Ohio River Basin.
DeWine told journalists at a Tuesday afternoon press conference that air tests conducted by members of the Ohio National Guard sent into the area of the derailment with protective gear purportedly showed that the air quality was “basically what it was prior to the actual train crash.” The report from the official comes as residents continue to experience worrisome symptoms.
“A large number of firefighters, police officers, sheriff’s deputies, and state troopers have experienced many symptoms including a bad cough, headaches, sore throat, and diarrhea,” one first responder told The Daily Wire on Tuesday afternoon, adding that his own symptoms persisted for two days after he left the area. “The same symptoms were reported by residents who did not evacuate.”
Days after the chemicals were burned and residents were told they could safely return to their homes, officials at the Environmental Protection Agency shared a list of other industrial chemicals released at the derailment site provided to them by Norfolk Southern. One train car carrying ethylene glycol monobutyl ether presently has an “unknown status,” according to Norfolk Southern, while the amount of ethylhexyl acrylate in another car is still “pending.” The former substance can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness, while the latter has been identified as a carcinogen in laboratory experiments.
DeWine told reporters that he and Governor Josh Shapiro (D-PA) deliberated for hours on whether they would let the train explode, which could have jettisoned shrapnel throughout East Palestine, or allow the chemicals to enter the atmosphere through the controlled burn. They chose the latter of the “two bad options” after consulting with regulators and executives with Norfolk Southern. DeWine added that he spoke last week to President Joe Biden, who invited the official to call him if the state of Ohio required assistance from the federal government.
DeWine also revealed that he recently learned the train was “not considered a ‘high hazardous material’ train,” meaning that “the railroad was not required to notify anyone here in Ohio about what was in the railcars” traversing the state.
“Even though some railcars did have some hazardous materials on board, and while most of them did not, that is why it was not categorized as a high hazardous material train,” he continued, urging members of Congress to examine the regulations that permitted the classification. “Frankly, if this is true, and I’m told this is true, this is absurd.”