FEMA to Deploy Disaster-Support Team to Site of Ohio Train Derailment

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will send a federal disaster-support team to the location of a train derailment in Ohio, which dumped toxins into the area and forced evacuations of residents.

Republican Governor Mike DeWine announced the deployment Friday after FEMA said last week the incident that did not qualify for its services.

“FEMA and the State of Ohio have been in constant contact regarding emergency operations in East Palestine. U.S. EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] and Ohio EPA have been working together since day one,” DeWine said alongside FEMA Regional Administrator Thomas Sivak.

The governor said a FEMA Senior Response Official and Regional Incident Management Assistance Team will help on the ground in East Palestine, Ohio.

On February 3, the partial derailment of a long freight train by the town sparked a blaze, releasing dangerous chemicals into the environment. The train was carrying vinyl chloride, which is linked to increased risk for a number of cancers. The contents of the train were then burned, in a “controlled fire,” to prevent an explosion. Norfolk Southern, the transportation company that operated the train, conducted a “controlled release” of the gas.

Earlier this week, DeWine said FEMA had considered the Ohio situation outside of its regulatory domain, noting that “although FEMA is synonymous with disaster support, they’re most typically involved with disasters where there is tremendous home or property damage.” The East Palestine incident, however, did displace locals from their  homes and left questions unanswered about effects to air quality.

Ranking members from the Senate Energy and Public Works Committee said Friday that it plans to hold a hearing on the environmental and public-health damage inflicted by the derailment.

“The recent Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio has led to serious health and safety concerns from the surrounding communities. Given these concerns, we will hold a committee hearing soon on the environmental and public health impacts of this incident,” Democratic Senator Tom Carper and Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito said in a statement.

They said their focus will be to examine the local, state and federal response in the immediate aftermath of the disaster and the clean-up process.

“We believe this is an important step to ensure that response prioritizes the health and safety of those impacted by this terrible accident,” they said.

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