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Toxic East Palestine derailment waste heading to facilities in Ohio, Indiana

Aerial view of derailed trains lying in dirt beside railroad tracks in East Palestine, Ohio. An excavator and other trucks are parked nearby.
Ygal Kaufman
Ideastream Public Media
Derailed Norfolk Southern train cars lie in the dirt beside the railroad tracks in East Palestine on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023.

Hazardous waste from the train derailment site in East Palestine will be trucked to four sites in Ohio and Indiana.

Hauling resumed after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered Norfolk Southern over the weekend topause shipments headed to Michigan and Texas to allow time for more oversight measures. All of the newly selected facilities are in compliance with EPA standards, Regional Administrator Debra Shore said.

“We have identified two EPA certified waste disposal facilities in Ohio that are able to accept at least some of the waste from the derailment, meaning that the railroad was able to restart shipments this morning," Shore said.

The two facilities that began receiving shipments today are in East Liverpool and Vickery, Ohio. Another site in Grafton, Ohio, and one in Indiana will begin receiving shipments tomorrow.

Many layers of oversight accompany the transportation of the hazardous waste.

"From proper waste labeling, packaging and handling, as well as requirements for shipping documents that provide information about the wastes and where they're going," Shore said.

The EPA has conducted almost 600 home air tests, Shore said. There are 15 air monitoring stations set up in the community.

"I continue to be pleased that there have been no exceedances for residential air quality standards and outdoor air quality remains normal," Shore said.

Despite calls from some experts for the EPA to also monitor dioxins, pollutants that can be released by burning chemicals that can cause cancer, testing for those still isn't being done.

"They are ubiquitous in the environment," Shore said. "They can be caused by wildfires, by backyard grilling, by a host of other normal activities in human life."

The EPA also doesn't have baseline data of dioxin levels in East Palestine before the derailment, she said.

"Without that information, it would be hard to attribute any level to the derailment," Shore said.

Even with continued reports of safe air quality, residents are complaining of symptoms due to the derailment. Mayor Trent Conaway is still concerned about the symptoms of residents.

"They are saying everything is safe and we're taking them at their word but we need to get to the bottom of what's happening, Conaway said. "I really think they're working as hard as they can. I do question the people getting rashes and stuff like that, what is causing it."

U.S. EPA Administrator Michael Regan will return to East Palestine for the opening Wednesday of a welcome center for residents seeking more information. Another community meeting is scheduled for Thursday. It is unknown if Norfolk Southern will be in attendance.

Abigail Bottar covers Akron, Canton, Kent and the surrounding areas for Ideastream Public Media.