Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has asked the Biden Administration to declare East Palestine a major disaster area, 150 days after a train derailed spilling toxic chemicals into the area. Although federal experts continue to assess the impact of the accident, DeWine made the official request when the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) denied him an extension of the claim deadline. The governor also warned that the company that owns the train, Northfolk Southern, will not guarantee that it will continue its voluntary assistance to the community in the future.
Northfolk Southern's "volunteer" assistance, key
In a letter to Joe Biden, DeWine warns that "this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and the affected local governments, and that supplementary federal assistance is necessary." The Republican politician stressed that, so far, "no unmet needs have been reported to the State," something that "is due to the voluntary actions of Norfolk Southern."
These actions can stop at any time, according to DeWine. "For example, if it is determined that Norfolk Southern is not responsible for the damage at East Palestine or if new leadership takes over Norfolk Southern and decides to end aid." The company also announced that it will sue the company that owns the toxic products to pay for the cleanup costs.
Health and economic consequences for residents of East Palestine
In addition, DeWine insisted on the health damage caused to the residents - the immediate damage, and the after-effects that the neighbors will have to face - to which must be added the economic impact on this small town.
Because of the unique nature of this incident, the State is still working to identify current needs and evaluate the future impacts this disaster will have on individuals and the community. The incident had immediate physical and mental health effects on the community, and the Ohio Department of Health engaged with the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a clinic in the community. However, the long-term health impacts are unknown. In addition to the physical and mental health impacts, there have been economic impacts. Homeowners and business have seen property value decline and loss of business as people are hesitant to come into the community.