Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine revealed Thursday that the Biden administration’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is still refusing to offer assistance for Ohio after the massive train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.
Thirty-eight train cars of the 151-car Norfolk Southern train 32N originating from Madison, Illinois, derailed on February 3, prompting authorities to conduct a “toxic release” of hazardous chemicals on board the train. Those chemicals included vinyl chloride and ethylhexyl acrylate, which are considered carcinogens. According to the National Cancer Institute, vinyl chloride exposure is associated with an increased risk of a rare form of liver cancer (hepatic angiosarcoma), as well as “primary liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma), brain and lung cancers, lymphoma, and leukemia.”
“Ohio Governor Mike DeWine spoke with officials at the White House early this morning to address the need for federal help,” DeWine said in a statement. “As a result of this conversation, the Governor has requested assistance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health and Emergency Response Team, and the CDC to provide on-the-ground assistance in East Palestine.”
“The DeWine Administration has been in daily contact with FEMA to discuss the need for federal support, however FEMA continues to tell Governor DeWine that Ohio is not eligible for assistance at this time,” he continued. “Governor DeWine will continue working with FEMA to determine what assistance can be provided.”
The Wall Street Journal reported that a mandatory evacuation in East Palestine had been implemented on February 5. On February 8, officials said that residents of East Palestine could return home.
The Environmental Protection Agency later informed Norfolk Southern that ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate, and isobutylene were also in the rail cars.
After the toxic release of the chemicals, Sil Caggiano, a hazardous materials specialist, told WKBN, “We basically nuked a town with chemicals so we could get a railroad open. I was kind of surprised when they quickly told the people they could go back home, but then said if they wanted their homes tested, they could have them tested. I would’ve far rather they did all the testing.”
“There’s a lot of what-ifs, and we’re gonna be looking at this thing 5, 10, 15, 20 years down the line and wondering, ‘Gee, cancer clusters could pop up, well water could go bad,’” he added.
“The biggest question remaining is what, if anything, is still being released from the site, first and foremost,” Peter DeCarlo, an environmental health professor at Johns Hopkins University, told The Washington Post. “If there are still residual chemical emissions, then that still presents a danger for people in the area.”