Ohio train crash: Biden orders door-to-door checks

Washington –

US President Joe Biden on Friday directed federal agencies to travel door-to-door in East Palestine, Ohio, to check on families affected by the toxic train derailment.

By order of Biden, teams from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will visit homes starting Saturday. According to the White House, workers will ask how residents are doing, see what they need, and connect them to appropriate resources from government and nonprofits.

A “walk team” is modeled after similar teams following a hurricane or other natural disaster.

Biden has instructed his employees to visit as many homes as possible by Monday. Officials said their immediate goal is to visit at least 400 people.The president said he currently has no plans to visit Ohio personally.

Meanwhile, the controversy has spread far beyond small towns in Ohio. bottom.

Biden’s order came as House Republicans launched an investigation into the Feb. 3 derailment, blaming Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for a delay in responding to the violent wreck. This week, the focus was on the DOT, even though the EPA took charge of the federal response in Norfolk and he ordered the Southern Railway to pay for decontamination and chemical release.

Rep. James Comer, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said what had become a political proxy war as each party lay on the other after the derailment and chemical leak that led to the evacuation of a small Ohio community. became the latest legislator to dive into the

In a letter to Buttigieg, a Kentucky Republican said, “Despite the U.S. Department of Transportation’s responsibility to ensure safe and reliable transportation within the United States, you ignored the catastrophe for over a week.” “The American public should be answered as to what caused the derailment, and the DOT should provide an explanation for the leadership’s indifference in the face of this emergency.”

A preliminary report released by the National Transportation Safety Board on Thursday said crew members driving the Norfolk Southern freight train received little warning before dozens of cars slid off the tracks. , there was no indication that the crew had done anything wrong.

Republicans see the incident as a moral failure at the hands of the Biden administration, noting that Buttigieg did not visit the site until nearly three weeks after the shipwreck. Democrats point to the backtracking that former President Donald Trump made during his presidency that weakened regulations on railroads and the environment. EPA Administrator Michael Regan visited the site last week and Tuesday.

Biden on Friday rejected the notion that his administration is not providing support.

“I was there two hours after the train went down, two hours,” Biden said at the White House. “I’ve spoken to key figures in both Pennsylvania and Ohio. So the idea that we’re not engaged is simply not there.”

On Saturday, Feb. 4, less than a day after the derailment, the DOT provided the Ohio legislative delegation and members of related committees with the “initial accident notice,” according to a timeline released by the White House on Friday. .

On the same day, the EPA deployed real-time air monitoring equipment at 12 locations around the sinking site and nearby areas, according to the White House.

White House staff contacted Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s office on Sunday, Feb. 5, to provide additional federal assistance, the White House said on Sunday, Feb. 5. mentioned in the detailed description. Watch news article.

The supervisory letter requests documentation and communications regarding when DOT leadership learned of the derailment, whether they were instructed as to what the public response should be, and recent changes to the agency’s train maintenance and procedures. increase.

The day before, Buttigieg made his first visit to the crash site and hit back at Trump, who had visited the previous day and criticized the federal government’s response.

Buttigieg told reporters that if the former president (and current Republican presidential candidate) is very keen to step up his commitment to railroad safety, “one thing he can do is take control of the regulations that happened under his watch.” It’s about showing support for overturning easing,” he said.

On Friday, Buttigieg accused Comer of referring to “the DOT’s National Transportation Safety Board” in his letter, saying, “The chairman of the board thinks the NTSB is part of our division. The NTSB is independent (and for good reason).” Of course, we will fully consider this and respond appropriately. ”

White House Press Secretary Carine Jean-Pierre condemned “a political stunt that we see from the other side.”

Norfolk Southern said the NTSB report indicated that the train’s heat detectors were working as intended and that the crew was operating “within the company’s rules.” Nonetheless, the company said it “must learn as much as possible from this event” and “develop practices and invest in technology that will help prevent incidents like this in the future.”

A freight train derailed in an eastern Palestinian suburb near the Pennsylvania border contained 11 vehicles carrying dangerous goods. Residents were evacuated amid growing fears that the smoldering wreckage could explode.

Concerned about an uncontrolled explosion, authorities released toxic PVC from five vehicles and burned them, sending flames and black smoke into the sky. Although authorities claimed they were doing their best to protect people, this has led people to question the potential health effects.

“This incident is an environmental and public health emergency that now threatens Americans across state lines,” Comer and about 20 Republicans said in a letter to Buttigieg.

The environmental controversy stretched more than 1,000 miles to Texas, where Harris County officials questioned the transportation and disposal of toxic wastewater moved from a derailment site in Ohio to a suburb of Houston.

County Judge Lina Hidalgo said 500,000 gallons of wastewater from the site was transported to Deer Park, Texas, with another 1.5 million gallons expected to arrive. The wastewater is turned over to Texas Molecular, which injects the hazardous waste into the ground for disposal.

The contaminated soil is trucked to a landfill site near Ann Arbor, Michigan, Ohio.

“This reported behavior has not been brought to our attention,” said Dingell, who represents the region. She contacted DeWine’s offices, federal and Ohio officials, and Norfolk Southern to “understand what is being shipped and how we are keeping all Michigan residents safe.” said.


Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this article.

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