EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WKBN) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is now requiring Norfolk Southern to test for dioxins after the February 3 train derailment in East Palestine.

The release went out Thursday from the EPA stating that this comes “in direct response to the concerns Administrator Michael Regan heard from residents in East Palestine earlier this week.”

Previously, EPA administrator Debra Shore said the EPA was not testing for dioxins at the time because there was no baseline to compare it to. The release sent out Thursday says that Norfolk Southern will be required to test East Palestine along with nearby areas:

“EPA will require Norfolk Southern to conduct a background study to compare any dioxin levels around East Palestine to dioxin levels in other areas not impacted by the train derailment.”

If dioxins are found at a level that poses any unacceptable risk to human health and the environment, EPA will direct the immediate cleanup of the area as needed. 

“Over the last few weeks, I’ve sat with East Palestine residents and community leaders in their homes, businesses, churches, and schools. I’ve heard their fears and concerns directly, and I’ve pledged that these experiences would inform EPA’s ongoing response efforts,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “In response to concerns shared with me by residents, EPA will require Norfolk Southern to sample directly for dioxins under the agency’s oversight and direct the company to conduct immediate clean up if contaminants from the derailment are found at levels that jeopardize people’s health. This action builds on EPA’s bipartisan efforts alongside our local, state, and federal partners to earn the trust of this community and ensure all residents have the reassurances they need to feel safe at home once again.”

So far, the EPA’s approach to addressing community concerns for dioxins has focused on sampling and analysis for “indicator chemicals” such as chlorobenzenes and chlorophenols that would suggest the potential for the release of dioxins attributable to the derailment.

EPA is currently analyzing for 19 chlorobenzene and chlorophenol compounds in the area of East Palestine.  As of February 28, EPA has collected at least 115 samples in the potentially impacted area, which include samples of air, soils, surface water, and sediments. 

To date, EPA’s monitoring for indicator chemicals has suggested a low probability for release of dioxin from this incident.

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The EPA says its air tests have detected only low levels of 1,4-dichlorobenzene typical of ambient background concentrations.