Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg claimed during an interview over the weekend that residents of East Palestine, Ohio, do not care about politics as their town suffers the fallout from a toxic train derailment that happened earlier this month.
The catastrophic February 3 train derailment in the small Ohio community was caused by an overheated wheel bearing on the 23rd of 149 rail cars. Local officials subsequently evacuated all residents within one mile of the accident and started a controlled burn of the vinyl chloride that the train was transporting in an effort to prevent a massive explosion from occurring.
Buttigieg’s remarks come after he and the rest of the Biden administration have faced intense criticism over their response to the incident and faced widespread accusations of not caring about it because the area did not vote for Biden in 2020.
“There has been so much information, and frankly so much misinformation thrown at this community and thrown at this situation that a lot them are asking who they can even trust,” Buttigieg claimed. “It’s so important to continue to make sure that they can get good, accurate information about the things they care about most, which isn’t national politics or who looks good or who looks bad, it’s continuing to know that their air, water, and soil are going to be safe, that their homes are going to be safe.”
“That’s what anybody would want to know in this situation,” he added. “You could feel a sense of fatigue with all of the kind of politics swirling around their community.”
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on the administration’s poor response to the toxic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio: it’s not about “Who looks good or who looks bad”
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) February 27, 2023
Researchers from Texas A&M and Carnegie Mellon said on Friday that nine of the approximately 50 chemicals that the EPA said were present on the derailed train have higher concentrations than normal in East Palestine. They were especially concerned with above-normal levels of acrolein, a substance with a pungent odor that is “highly toxic” when inhaled, according to a report from the CDC.
Other chemicals charted at abnormally high levels included benzene, naphthalene, and vinyl chloride. “If these levels continue, they may be of health concern,” the analysis said.