EPA Orders Norfolk Southern To Test For Toxic Chemical Compounds After Resident Outcry

(Photo by Michael Swensen/Getty Images)

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Alexa Schwerha Contributor
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered Norfolk Southern on Thursday to test an eastern Ohio town for toxic chemical compounds that could have formed after an early February train derailment, according to a press release sent to the Daily Caller News Foundation.

EPA Region 5 Administrator Debra Shore said earlier this week that the agency would not test for dioxins in East Palestine since it did not have baseline testing for what chemicals were present in the area before a Norfolk Southern train derailed and spilled toxins into the air and water. Residents became increasingly concerned about the presence of dioxins, which form through combustion or fuel burning and are linked to health problems such as cancer, during a Feb. 23 town hall where Stephen Lester, science director at the Center for Health, Environment & Justice, called the lack of testing a mistake. (RELATED: Erin Brockovich Warns It Could Take ‘Decades’ For Ohio Town To Recover After Toxic Train Derailment)

“In direct response to the concerns Administrator Michael Regan heard from residents in East Palestine earlier this week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will require Norfolk Southern to test directly for dioxins,” the press release reads. “If dioxins are found at a level that poses any unacceptable risk to human health and the environment, EPA will direct the immediate cleanup of the area as needed.”

Norfolk Southern will also conduct a background study to compare the dioxin level in East Palestine to levels in areas that were not affected by the crash, according to the press release.

“Norfolk Southern is aware of the EPA’s press release stating it will require Norfolk Southern to sample for dioxins in East Palestine and we are committed to working with the agency to do what is right for the residents of East Palestine,” a company spokesperson told the DCNF. “We have been paying for the clean-up activities to date and will continue to do so. We are committed to thoroughly and safely cleaning the site, and we are reimbursing residents for the disruption this has caused in their lives. We will continue to listen to the concerns of the community as restoration work moves forward.”

EAST PALESTINE, OH - FEBRUARY 24: Residents from East Palestine and surrounding areas wait in line for the town hall event held by environmental activist Erin Brockovich on February 24, 2023 in East Palestine, Ohio.

EAST PALESTINE, OH – FEBRUARY 24: Residents from East Palestine and surrounding areas wait in line for the town hall event held by environmental activist Erin Brockovich on February 24, 2023 in East Palestine, Ohio. (Photo by Michael Swensen/Getty Images)

EPA data implies that the “probability for release of dioxin” because of the derailment is low. It is analyzing for 19 chlorobenzene and chlorophenol compounds in the town and, as of Feb. 28, collected a minimum of 115 samples through the air, soil, surface water and sediments, the press release reads.

“Over the last few weeks, I’ve sat with East Palestine residents and community leaders in their homes, businesses, churches, and schools. I’ve heard their fears and concerns directly, and I’ve pledged that these experiences would inform EPA’s ongoing response efforts,” Regan said in the press release. “This action builds on EPA’s bipartisan efforts alongside our local, state, and federal partners to earn the trust of this community and ensure all residents have the reassurances they need to feel safe at home once again.”

River Valley Organizing, a local nonprofit, published a list of five demands on Tuesday, one of which requested the EPA test for dioxin. The list, targeted toward Norfolk Southern and other government agencies, also demanded housing relocation for concerned citizens, medical testing and monitoring, safe disposal of toxic waste and for Norfolk Southern to pay for all cleanup-related costs.

This article has been updated with comment from Norfolk Southern.

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