EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WKBN) – Last week, we learned from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the soil in East Palestine is OK. At a meeting Thursday night, we learned the air they’re breathing — for the most part — is OK, too. With the derailment site being cleaned up, it does occasionally smell, but the EPA is working to control that as well.
About 30 people attended the EPA meeting in East Palestine where the topic was air quality.
“Except for a few small instances, we’re not seeing anything off-site, not seeing anything in the community,” said Mark Durno with the EPA.
Durno — a graduate of Champion High School — has been in East Palestine since the early days of the derailment. The EPA is currently focused on monitoring the derailment site, which is in the process of being cleaned up. A graphic showed the route traversed by mobile monitoring units.
“There are times when we have to put our work crews in respirators because we’re seeing higher levels of hazardous materials on site,” Durno said.
When the smell gets too bad, vapor suppressant foam is applied to reduce the stench.
“We’re actively telling Norfolk Southern to make sure they’re using that stuff liberally, to make sure we keep those vapors down because even the vapors can be an irritant and we don’t want that,” said Matt Villicana with the EPA.
Some community members say when the active excavation work at the derailment site is not going on, they rarely smell anything.
“They’ve also told us that sometimes in the evenings, when the air is really still, sometimes they can smell some unpleasant odors,” Durno said.
To help people living near the derailment site, who often smell odors, Norfolk Southern offered a voluntary relocation program.
“There are a number of people who have taken advantage of that opportunity and they’re not at home right now. They’re at temporary shelters,” Durno said.
Durno says they will keep the extensive air monitoring network in place as long as there are hazardous materials that need to be cleaned up. He expects that to last through about mid-summer.