The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that Northfolk Southern, the company that owns the train that derailed a month ago in East Palestine while transporting hazardous materials, will now carry out tests for dioxins. The decision was taken following complaints from workers and neighbors in the affected area, who claim that they have been getting sick since the spill occurred. In addition, President Joe Biden indicated that he will visit Ohio "at some point."
Setting aside the fact that on Thursday, the EPA itself indicated that there was a "low probability" that the incident would release dioxins, several experts told the AP that the burning of vinyl chloride - a toxic substance used in the manufacture of plastics - can generate highly carcinogenic pollutants. Finally, after a variety of protests, including a joint letter from the workers, the EPA put in place an enforcement for the railway company carry out the tests.
Dioxins are naturally present in the environment, and there are no records of previous levels of these toxins in the locality prior to the accident. Therefore, the agency will require Northfolk Southern to conduct a baseline study comparing dioxin levels in the eastern Ohio locality with those in other areas. For its part, the EPA will continue to sample for "indicator chemicals."
Biden Supports Rail Safety Act
For his part, Biden again dragged his feet on a possible visit to East Palestine. The president, despite the harsh criticism that his administration continues to receive for its management of the crisis, insisted that he is keeping abreast of the situation from a distance on a daily basis, however, he refused to give a possible date for a visit to the area. "I’ve spoken with every official in Ohio, Democrat and Republican, on a continuing basis, as in Pennsylvania. We will be implementing an awful lot through the legislation here, and I will be out there at some point."
I applaud this bipartisan response to the Norfolk Southern derailment in Ohio.
This bill would give us tools to hold these rail companies accountable. It's a critical first step.
Both parties should pass this, and I'll sign it into law. https://t.co/nqqs4weJJU
— President Biden (@POTUS) March 2, 2023
In addition, the President expressed support for the bipartisan bill to strengthen federal oversight of trains carrying hazardous materials: "I applaud the bipartisan group of senators for proposing rail safety legislation that provides many of the solutions that my administration has been calling for."