The federal government ordered Norfolk Southern to stop removing hazardous materials from East Palestine, Ohio, where one of its trains derailed earlier this month causing an environmental disaster.
Since the Feb. 3 train wreck, the railroad company has been responsible for the removal of soil and water tainted by highly dangerous chemicals such as vinyl chloride, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate, and isobutylene. The Environmental Protection Agency on Saturday ordered the company to stop so it can approve all aspects of removal.
“Moving forward, waste disposal plans including disposal location and transportation routes for contaminated waste will be subject to federal EPA review and approval,” Debra Shore, U.S. EPA’s administrator for Region 5, said at a news conference.
Contaminated soil continues to be removed from the site of the train derailment in East Palestine and hauled to a hazardous waste disposal facility in Michigan.
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Officials in Texas and Michigan have said tainted soil and water from the scene, including millions of gallons of water used to douse fires at the site, have been brought into their states without full disclosure. About two million gallons of firefighting water from the train derailment site were to be disposed of in Harris County, according to the county’s chief executive.
A company called Texas Molecular told CNN it has been receiving about 30 truckloads of tainted water per day.
“It’s a very real problem, we were told yesterday the materials were coming only to learn today they’ve been here for a week,” Judge Lina Hidalgo told reporters last week.
Ohio officials said 20 truckloads of contaminated soil had been hauled away from the site. Some 15 truckloads were taken to a licensed hazardous waste treatment and disposal facility in Belleville, Michigan, but five were sent back to East Palestine.
Shore said she believes the company’s methods of disposal have so far been in compliance with federal regulations.
“But we did hear from residents who were concerned and others and a number of states,” Shore said. “We’re reviewing the transport of some of this waste over long distances and finding the appropriate and permanent certified sites to take waste, as we do with other contaminated sites.”
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Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s office said about 102,000 gallons of liquid waste and 4,500 cubic yards of solid waste are being stored at the site of the derailment.
Residents of East Palestine and the surrounding area have complained of headaches, dizziness, and difficulty breathing since state and railroad officials opted to ignite tanker cars carrying the volatile chemicals. The so-called “controlled burn” sent a huge plume of black smoke skyward and raised concerns about long-term environmental damage. Residents have reported dead pets, and tens of thousands of dead fish have turned up in area waterways.