U.S. Officials Visit East Palestine After Train Derailment

On Thursday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg visited East Palestine, Ohio, to meet with residents and investigators.[0] This was his first visit to the village since the derailment of a Norfolk Southern freight train on February 3rd. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a preliminary report on the derailment on the same day, indicating that the train's crew became aware of an overheated wheel bearing just moments before the wreck and tried to stop the train. The NTSB said that the train was traveling about 47 miles per hour at the time, slightly below the authorized speed of 50 miles per hour, but the suspect wheel bearing was recorded as being above ambient temperature three times before the derailment.[1]

The NTSB report also said that after the train stopped, the crew observed fire and smoke and notified the Cleveland East dispatcher of a possible derailment. Upon receiving the necessary authorization from the dispatcher, the crew applied the handbrakes to the two railcars at the front of the train, uncoupled the locomotives from the head-end, and relocated the locomotives approximately one mile away from the disconnected railcars.[2] Rescue personnel arrived at the scene of the derailment and began taking action.[2]

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, Rep. Bill Johnson of Ohio, and Michael Regan, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, visited the homes of East Palestine residents on Tuesday to show them that their water is safe to drink.[3] The EPA said that there is no reason for concern and ordered Norfolk Southern to cover the full cost of cleaning up the aftermath of the train crash.[4] Ohio state officials said that the municipal water is safe to drink and that those with private wells should drink bottled water until their test results are returned.[5]

On Tuesday, the Ohio Department of Health inaugurated a health clinic in East Palestine to provide medical assessments to those affected by the derailment.[6] On Wednesday, a press release was released which stated that, as well as getting health check-ups, citizens are also able to talk to a mental health expert and a toxicologist.[7]

The NTSB is continuing its investigation, examining the wheels and tank car design, as well as the burning of the vinyl chloride and accident response.[8] At 1 p.m., Jennifer Homendy – Chair of the NTSB – and Robert J. Hall – Director of the NTSB’s Office of Railroad, Pipeline, and Hazardous Materials – are set to hold a press conference.[7]

0. “115,580 gallons of toxic vinyl chloride were at risk of exploding in the Ohio train disaster, investigators say” CNN, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/02/23/us/ohio-train-derailment-east-palestine-thursday/index.html

1. “Video showed wheel bearing was in “final stage of overheat failure” before Ohio train derailed, report says” CBS News, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/ohio-train-derailment-ntsb-report-wheel-bearing-final-stage-overheat-failure

2. “Ohio train derailment: Operators warned of overheated axle moments before wreck: NTSB” Fox News, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.foxnews.com/us/ohio-train-derailment-operators-warned-overheated-axle-moments-before-wreck-ntsb

3. “Politicians Are Drinking the Water in East Palestine to ‘Prove' It's Safe” VICE, 22 Feb. 2023, https://www.vice.com/en/article/k7b47y/east-palestine-drinking-water-mike-dewine

4. “Video: Ohio politicians gingerly sip tap water near toxic train crash” Business Insider, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.businessinsider.com/ohio-politicians-gingerly-sip-water-toxic-train-crash-2023-2

5. “Ohio lieutenant governor to East Palestine residents: ‘If you feel unsafe, you should drink bottled water’” The Hill, 23 Feb. 2023, https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/3870754-ohio-lieutenant-governor-to-east-palestine-residents-if-you-feel-unsafe-you-should-drink-bottled-water/

6. “Ohio train derailment investigation: NTSB releases preliminary report on East Palestine incident” WKYC.com, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.wkyc.com/article/news/special-reports/train-derailment/ohio-train-derailment-investigation-ntsb-preliminary-report-east-palestine/95-d100b570-38c7-4a1c-b6ba-f3f79ba7b45d

7. “LIVE: Buttigieg speaks after NTSB releases report on derailment” WJW FOX 8 News Cleveland, 23 Feb. 2023, https://fox8.com/news/investigation-report-on-train-derailment-to-be-released/

8. “East Palestine, Ohio: Crew tried to slow train before toxic wreck – NTSB” BBC, 23 Feb. 2023, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-64749041

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