Mon. May 27th, 2024

Ohio train derailment: FEMA to deploy team to East Palestine 2 weeks after disaster

Biden administration says Ohio train derailment doesn’t meet legal requirements for FEMA disaster declaration

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is deploying federal assistance to Ohio now more than two weeks after the toxic Norfolk Southern train derailment that threatened the village of East Palestine.

Gov. Mike DeWine said the move came following further discussions with the agency.

In a joint statement on Friday, the governor and FEMA Regional Administrator Thomas Sivak said FEMA and Ohio had been in “constant contact” regarding emergency operations in the community.

“U.S. EPA and Ohio EPA have been working together since day one,” they said. “Tomorrow, FEMA will supplement federal efforts by deploying a Senior Response Official along with a Regional Incident Management Assistance Team (IMAT) to support ongoing operations, including incident coordination and ongoing assessments of potential long term recovery needs.”

This video screenshot released by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) shows the site of a derailed freight train in East Palestine, Ohio (NTSB/Handout via Xinhua via Getty Images)

Previously, DeWine had tweeted that East Palestine did not qualify for FEMA assistance.

President Biden’s administration has taken heavy criticism from residents for not approving a FEMA disaster declaration. The derailment does not meet the legal requirements for such a declaration, officials say.

“What East Palestine needs is much more expansive than what FEMA can provide,” a Biden administration official told Fox News Digital. “FEMA is on the frontlines when there is a hurricane or tornado. This situation is different.”

In a press conference earlier in the day, the governor said Ohio would set up a medical clinic there and that federal officials from the Department of Health and Human Services would also be on site.

Neil Figley, 28, holds his daughter, Harlie, 4, wait in line at the Norfolk Southern Assistance Center to collect a $1,000 check and get reimbursed for expenses while they were evacuated following a train derailment prompting health concerns on Feb. 17, 2023, in East Palestine, Ohio.  (Michael Swensen/Getty Images)

“We know that the science says that East Palestine is safe, but we also know that residents are very worried,” DeWine said. “They are asking themselves ‘Is my headache just a headache? Or is it a result of the chemical spill? Are other medical symptoms caused by the spill?’ Those are very legitimate questions and residents deserve answers.”

A clean-up crew works alongside a stream as clean-up efforts continue on Feb. 16, 2023, in East Palestine, Ohio.  (Michael Swensen/Getty Images)

Twenty air monitors continue to be moved throughout East Palestine to monitor different locations, and are not detecting contamination from the derailment. Samples taken in 500 homes had found no detections of volatile organic compounds associated with the train derailment.

Three crosses stand on a hillside overlooking a farm on the state line of Ohio and Pennsylvania following a train derailment prompting health concerns on Feb. 17, 2023, in East Palestine, Ohio.  (Michael Swensen/Getty Images)

Municipal water in East Palestine was found to be safe to drink, but those who get water from private wells are encouraged to use bottled water until their water is tested.

Dean Logan, a worker at Pepsi, delivers cases of water for volunteers to distribute to residents on Feb. 17, 2023, in East Palestine, Ohio.  (Michael Swensen/Getty Images)

A total of 1.1 million gallons of contaminants and contaminated liquid have been removed from the immediate site and stockpiled for proper disposal. Furthermore, 8,350 cubic yards of contaminated soil have been taken from the immediate area of the derailment.

Sulphur Run should be avoided, as it remains contaminated. The remediation of the impacted area of the creek is expected to take time. Sulphur Run was dammed “very soon after the crash” so that contamination in that part of the creek does not flow into other waterways.

While the chemical plume of butyl acrylate in the Ohio River has dissipated, Cincinnati acted Friday to stop its intake.