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On Feb. 3, a train derailed outside East Palestine, Ohio, releasing chemicals which could be hazardous for human and animal health.
But as time has passed, residents of East Palestine have grown increasingly frustrated with the federal response to their disaster.
They say it is not enough for officials to simply tell them their homes are secure; they want concrete answers and action from officials. Furthermore, they want to understand how best they can protect their families, pets and livestock from chemical odors that linger in the air.
On Wednesday morning, a NewsNation reporter giving a live report about the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio was arrested for trespassing during a news conference being held at East Palestine Elementary School - 50 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.
According to NewsNation, Evan Lambert was covering a press conference regarding the train derailment when a voice over the microphone instructed him to stop reporting. When he inquired further, a police officer informed him that he would be arrested and should leave immediately.
Moments later, images emerged of Lambert on the ground being handcuffed as two officers appeared to forcibly remove him from the building. This arrest was captured on video.
In the clip, two police officers can be seen wearing green T-shirts with handcuffs and jeans. It appears they are engaging Lambert in conversation while trying to pull him away from the gymnasium.
When the man refused to leave, police officers forcibly pushed him onto the ground and removed him from the building. After doing so, they placed him in the back of a Columbiana County sheriff's vehicle.
As soon as he learned of his arrest, Evan Lambert took to Twitter to thank Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and other supporters for helping him have charges dropped against him. He described the incident as an outrageous violation of his First Amendment rights, adding that he will continue reporting on what is happening around the world in the future.
Concerns over the train derailment have focused on its environmental effect in the area. Residents have reported breathing issues and burning eyes even though air quality tests show no toxins present. Some pets and household animals have perished, and according to a Department of Agriculture spokesperson, approximately 3,500 dead fish have been found in local waterways.
A train derailment has also caused a chemical release into the nearby Ohio River, which supplies drinking water to Pittsburgh and Weirton, West Virginia. A federal investigation is underway to identify what caused the derailment and how it can be cleaned up.
On Wednesday, CNN is hosting a town hall meeting in East Palestine, Ohio where angry and frustrated residents are seeking answers about how to address their safety worries after a train derailment that released toxic chemicals into the air and water. The event will be moderated by CNN anchor Jake Tapper and feature state and federal officials as well.
On Tuesday morning, residents of East Palestine flocked to their local high school gym with questions for authorities after the February 3 derailment that spilled toxic chemicals into air and water. Though officials have assured residents that all is now well, some still fear for their health and children's wellbeing. On Thursday afternoon EPA Administrator Michael Regan paid a visit to East Palestine, taking time out to walk along a creek that still smells of chemicals while assuring people their drinking water remains secure.
The incident has prompted bipartisan calls for Congress to review rail safety regulations and congressional committees are set to assess the consequences of the train derailment. The Biden administration has requested safety reforms from the railroad industry, while some lawmakers question if there is enough oversight of rail companies.
Some lawmakers have reported hearing from rail company executives their "vigorous opposition" to tightening safety regulations. But some Democrats and Republicans have come together in support of calling on the industry to make necessary improvements, Politico reported.
According to Politico, a Democratic committee chair has requested seven of the largest railroad companies to appear before her and her panel to discuss their safety practices. She's additionally requested a joint staff-level briefing from federal transportation and environmental agencies.
As part of its effort to enhance freight train safety, the Biden administration is seeking to enhance oversight over rail transportation of hazardous materials. This could include increasing inspections and audits on rail lines, increasing fines for violations, and requiring regulated entities to report on incidents.
However, President Obama has also sharply criticized the rail industry and its leaders for their inaction after the derailment. He called their lack of response a "betrayal," calling for them to respect community needs and rights. Furthermore, he has demanded that rail companies pay for cleanup costs incurred by the community which has already received assistance from both government and private organizations.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a legally binding order for Norfolk Southern to clean up the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. According to a press release issued Tuesday from the agency, this requires them to identify and remediate contaminated soil and water, reimburse the EPA for cleaning services provided to residents and businesses alike, attend public meetings at their request, as well as cover any accumulated costs incurred as part of this undertaking.
Two weeks after a train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed in East Palestine, Ohio-Pennsylvania border town, several utilities have temporarily shut off their intakes from the Ohio River to protect drinking water sources.
Officials have been testing the water to make sure it's safe for people, but it hasn't been easy to tell how long the contamination will last. While tests show that there are no lingering chemical smells or health effects associated with drinking this water, concerns still remain.
Concerns are compounded by reports that toxic vinyl chloride from the rail cars that derailed has been seeping into air and water. Some in the area have reported headaches, rashes, as well as strong chemical smells from lingering remnants.
On Monday, the EPA reported that they are continuing to test air and water samples within the community. While their most recent samples haven't revealed toxic chemicals at high concentrations, it remains uncertain how long these pollutants will persist in both air and water.
Norfolk Southern has been actively involved in the cleanup effort at the derailment site. The company has removed more than 15,000 pounds of contaminated soil and 1.1 million gallons of polluted water from the scene.
The EPA's order is an essential milestone in the effort to clean up environmental damage in East Palestine and get the town back on track. While it won't erase the hardship many families have been living with, it will provide much-needed comfort from the suffering caused by the train accident.
As the train derailment in East Palestine continues to unfold, federal assistance is being offered by several agencies. The President can declare a disaster or emergency and provide state and tribal leaders with federal resources such as assistance for homes, infrastructure repairs and hazard mitigation.
The Stafford Act, passed in 1935, grants President Eisenhower the power to declare a disaster or emergency for any situation that requires federal assistance. Such declarations have been used during times such as the coronavirus pandemic and hurricanes; however they can also be issued depending on the specific nature of the issue at hand.
On February 3, a train derailed in East Palestine, spilling hazardous chemicals into the environment and raising health concerns among residents. The train was carrying vinyl chloride - linked to an increased risk of several cancers - as well as hydrochloric acid, another hazardous material.
Since the derailment, residents have experienced headaches, skin rashes and other ailments. To combat these issues, government officials such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be on-site to assist local healthcare workers with testing and medical attention.
Meanwhile, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking over cleanup efforts in East Palestine. They have sent personnel to monitor air quality, screen homes for contaminants, secure Norfolk Southern commitments to cover cleanup costs, hold them accountable for their responsibilities during cleanup, and guarantee the community's water supply is safe to drink.
This case is landmark and serves to demonstrate that the federal government is willing to investigate violations of safety regulations. It also serves as a reminder to lawmakers that thousands of train derailments occur annually and more needs to be done to prevent such tragedies from occurring.
In an interview with CNBC, Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw expressed his commitment to aid in the cleanup and recovery efforts in East Palestine and said the company is investing in improving railroad safety. Additionally, Shaw mentioned having spoken to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown about their concerns, with plans to meet later this week.