News USA Transportation Secretary Buttigieg visits site of extensive Ohio derailment

Transportation Secretary Buttigieg visits site of extensive Ohio derailment

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg visited East Palestine, Ohio, on Thursday to tour the site where a freight train crashed nearly three weeks ago, as the government faces mounting criticism over the federal response to the derailment.

The February 3 derailment prompted evacuations and fears of air and water contamination after a controlled burn of toxic chemicals to prevent an explosion.

The federal government has defended its response to the derailment, saying officials from the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and others arrived at the site within hours of the derailment. The White House says it has also offered federal assistance and that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been coordinating with the state’s emergency operations center and other partners.

Buttigieg has been criticized for not visiting the site sooner, including by former President Donald Trump, who was in Ohio on Wednesday.

FILE – Members of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) inspect the site of a hazardous material train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, on February 16, 2023.

The NTSB will release a preliminary report on the derailment on Thursday.

More than 30 freight cars, including 11 carrying hazardous materials, derailed on the outskirts of East Palestine, prompting an evacuation as fears grew over a possible smoldering wreckage explosion.

Officials intentionally released and burned toxic vinyl chloride from five train cars in order to prevent an uncontrolled explosion. But the flames and the amount of black smoke left people concerned about the possible health effects, even as authorities maintained they were doing everything possible to protect people.

As work continued at the site, the Norfolk Southern railway company announced Wednesday that it had agreed to excavate the soil under two railway tracks. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine had charged that the company failed to address contaminated soil under the tracks before repairing them and re-transporting goods.

“Our original plan would have effectively and safely remediated the soil. Over the past two weeks, members of the community have shared with me their concerns about that approach. I appreciate the direct feedback and am addressing it,” Norfolk Southern President and CEO Alan H. Shaw said in a written statement.

Source: VOA Español

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