Ohio governor visits derailment site for cleanup update

(NewsNation) — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and his wife, Fran DeWine, visited the site of the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, on Wednesday to get the latest update on the cleanup and removal of hazardous waste.

During a daily joint press conference with local and federal officials, DeWine said the most important message he could convey was “we are going to stay.”

“We will continue to work to get the job done,” he said.

It was the governor’s first time to see what many locals now call “ground zero.”

“When you first see where the train wreck was, I think you can kind of have some visualization of what the firemen and women who were first responded to that,” he said. “I have great admiration for them.”

DeWine said he was impressed with the magnitude of the cleanup efforts he witnessed in his fourth visit to the community and impressed by the hard work people are doing.

DeWine reiterated his goals, saying he will hold Norfolk Southern accountable, focus on the safety of the residents and take a holistic approach to the trauma the community has suffered.

“We will continue to hold the railroad accountable and ensure that the cleanup here is thorough and complete,” DeWine said in a tweet announcing his visit.

DeWine said he has heard the calls from fire chiefs across the state for a dramatic increase in train derailment training.

He said he plans for a future announcement on that, saying, “It’s a big goal of mine.”

The governor and his wife toured a school. According to an update from his office, they also visited two contaminated waterways, Sulphur Run and Leslie Run, for a briefing on the status of surface water testing.

During the press conference, U.S. Department of Transportation Director Amit Bose announced the kickoff of a nationwide initiative to inspect trains and routes used to carry hazardous materials.

Beginning in East Palestine and expanding to communities across the country, Bose said the initiative will include both human inspections as well as the use of technology to evaluate track conditions and detect safety concerns.

“We need to keep our railroads safe,” Bose said.

It has been nearly four weeks since the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train in East Palestine, and the community continues its recovery from the resulting chemical spill.

The governor’s visit comes as track removal is scheduled to begin at the site to remove hazardous waste from underneath the rails, according to the governor’s office.

Officials from the Ohio EPA and U.S. EPA are “finalizing the process that Norfolk Southern will use to ensure the safe, complete, and effective cleanup of the hazardous waste under the train tracks at the derailment site,” DeWine’s office said.

Additionally, his office said verified laboratory results of ongoing private well sampling showed six of 11 samples from private water systems showed no detectable contaminants. Five wells had trace detections at levels well below safe drinking-water standards. 

There is no evidence that these trace detections are linked to the train derailment, they added.

“We won’t leave until the work is done,” EPA Region 5 administrator Debra Shore said during Wednesday’s press conference. “We are committed to this community.”

CDC Captain Jill Shugart said the agency is going door-to-door to provide residents a survey assessment of chemical exposure.

Also Wednesday, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators said they plan to introduce legislation subjecting railroads to new federal safety regulations.

“Through this legislation, Congress has a real opportunity to ensure that what happened in East Palestine will never happen again,” Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, said in a statement. “We owe every American the peace of mind that their community is protected from a catastrophe of this kind.”

DeWine applaud the introduction of the legislation.

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