The US Environmental Protection Agency has been on the scene in eastern Palestine considering the fact that a Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous chemical substances derailed there final month. Due to the fact that time, neighborhood residents have reported overall health symptoms, even as agencies like the EPA say their tests have not shown unsafe levels of chemical substances.
The EPA has come beneath fire from some scientists for not testing the appropriate chemical substances. He was also criticized by US Senator JD Vance for his handling of hazardous waste at the web-site. Allegheny Front’s Reid Frazier spoke with Mark Durn, the EPA’s field coordinator in East Palestine. He asked Durn to clarify the agency’s testing protocols.
LISTEN to the interview
Reid Frazier: There have been several inquiries about the testing of air, soil and water about eastern Palestine. Folks encounter symptoms, but hold hearing that testing reveals levels that appear secure. Can you clarify how all this testing is determined?
Mark Stupid: We are beneath what we get in touch with unified command. And unified command suggests that agencies that have duty, that have a stake in what is going on, make choices and take action on the ground. And we permitted the railroad, Norfolk Southern, to be aspect of that unified command due to the fact it really is their ownership and their duty to eventually make the neighborhood complete.
So there is surveillance, and sampling is ongoing. But what you are truly finding at is why we have this discrepancy involving what we’re saying in terms of the security of off-web-site venting and the community’s issues about extended-term overall health troubles.
So the initial aspect of that is we have to comply with sound science. We have action levels for volatile organic chemical substances that we’ve monitored off-web-site and in people’s residences. And to this day, the only higher levels of volatile organic chemical substances we’ve noticed considering the fact that the evacuation started to boost is at the web-site. We never see something going on in the neighborhood. That is the scientific side of it.
But there is also the neighborhood side. And, you know, you cannot deny what the neighborhood is experiencing. Some of the neighborhood members encounter overall health consequences. There was a overall health clinic – there is nevertheless a overall health clinic – established to enable residents with overall health complications. The guidance we give to neighborhood members is primarily based on science. We visited residences exactly where residents had some overall health complications. We monitored the interior of these residences and to date have not noticed any VOCs in these residences.
Clearly the exception is when we go into a property exactly where there are people today who have been actively smoking – cigarettes in the property – we will see a slight boost in VOCs, which is regular cigarette smoke. But we never see something straight linked to vinyl chloride or other contaminants of concern. So it really is a challenging query to answer when it comes to overall health effects due to the fact overall health effects can come from so several unique sources.
Frazier: So some researchers at Purdue University say the EPA and other agencies are truly actively testing all chemical substances that are detected at the web-site. Is that accurate? And how is the EPA responding to that?
Stupid: I’ve noticed news reports about it. I have not noticed any written reports or details, so I truly cannot comment on what they think we are or are not sampling that may possibly contradict their reports.
💡NEW Now: We reviewed government information on air and water chemical testing and identified a significant underlying trouble in previous/present responses. @EPA
The agencies do not test the exact same chemical substances.
This prevents choices about protection #health care.
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— Andrew Whelton 🔥💧❄🌪 (@TheWheltonGroup) March 13, 2023
Frazier: These Purdue researchers say 1 factor that has been identified in the air but not tested in the water is the hazardous chemical acrolein. Are you testing for it?
Stupid: So we’re testing the acrolein household of chemical substances. Once more, I have not noticed any reports from them. I never know that the EPA has noticed the reports. And that is truly difficult for us to comment on.
But we looked at acroleins and acrylates. The Ohio EPA has the principal oversight function more than all activities that happen in rivers. And it really is my understanding that the function at Purdue was carried out with respect to the waterways that had been impacted. So we can verify with the Ohio EPA on the complete extent of their sampling, water monitoring, and so forth.
Frazier: Norfolk Southern has hired an environmental consulting firm, the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Well being, which has been subpoenaed by ProPublica, the prime contractor for corporations accountable for industrial disasters, and has been accused, quote, of repeatedly downplaying overall health dangers. Now, CTA is performing testing for Norfolk Southern. Does it concern you about providing the public self-confidence in test final results?
Stupid: So, the enterprise in query, we see them all the time on web pages like this. We’ve carried out several, sadly several train disasters or train derailments. They have tons of air tracking gear and personnel that have the exact same expertise as us. So from a field monitoring standpoint, I think that the information that they generate, due to the fact we monitor that information, is good quality information.
Frazier: Can you let us know about the ground clearance? We have Senator JD Vance of Ohio, a Republican, criticizing the EPA for not removing contaminated soil from the web-site swiftly adequate. He also accused the administration of stopping waste shipments to Michigan due to the fact Democratic elected officials there opposed it. What takes place to the waste and is there any truth in Senator Vance’s allegations?
Stupid: Material is moved off-web-site. The enterprise ultimately won a contract with a waste disposal facility to start sending important amounts of material off-web-site. So you will get started to see trucks moving additional and additional every day.
You asked what occurred in Michigan. We have had quite a few landfills ask us to pause operations. Some of that was due to the fact of some of the inquiries we had been finding from elected officials. The explanation we stopped was due to the fact of issues about the level of chemical evaluation that was carried out on the waste piles. To allay fears and issues, we asked for extra sampling, which was carried out.
We had been capable to clearly demonstrate that the level of contamination was acceptable for the variety of disposal that was occurring. And now the trucks are moving once again. We nevertheless hope that the enterprise will be capable to conclude some additional contracts with other facilities and in some other nations.
You talked about Michigan. Hopefully Oklahoma will open up. But once again, we’ll see how it plays out involving the enterprise and the facilities. And naturally, in all of our states, elected leaders want to make certain that what is coming into their states is acceptable for the disposition that is becoming produced.
Frazier: I imply, just to place a fine point on it, have democratically elected officials in Michigan had additional influence more than choice-producing than other states?
Stupid: I can not think. But at my level, I never know the answer.
Mark Stupid is the US EPA on-web-site coordinator in East Palestine, Ohio.
Note: The Ohio State Agency, the state agency there, mentioned in an e mail that it is closely examining what was detected in surface water and released at the web-site of the derailment and is adjusting its list of chemical substances to test as new details becomes readily available.
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