WAMPUM, Pa. (WKBN) – The border of Lawrence County, Pennsylvania to East Palestine is about 3 miles away. When the train derailed, local leaders in Pennsylvania weren’t told what to tell their residents. On Friday, Congressman Mike Kelly listened to their concerns.
Lawrence County and municipalities leaders sat with Kelly and shared their concerns. They were upset they weren’t getting information about the train derailment or the controlled release.
“We finally had to start making some noise and saying, ‘Look, this is Lawrence County. We’re fairly close to this situation,'” said Dan Vogler, a Lawrence County commissioner.
Local leaders said the state and federal government are to blame for the lack of communication, which Kelly said he understands.
“We represent three quarters of a million people. They come to our office and they want answers. Sometimes we can’t give them the answers because we don’t have the information,” Kelly said.
Kelly said if residents of Lawrence County have their air and water tested by the EPA, they should save those receipts. He also said the residents shouldn’t have to pay for it and they shouldn’t sign a waiver.
Kelly also questioned who was affected during the controlled release.
“Just looking at that cloud, that dark cloud and thinking, ‘1 mile?’ That doesn’t seem feasible to me. That would only be the limit of it,” Kelly said.
Lawrence County does have a communication system called “Code Red” to alert the public, but Columbiana and Beaver counties were getting the most information.
“The information we were getting was saying there [were] no problems in Lawrence County, but that was us reaching out to get that,” said Chad Strobel, Lawrence County’s public safety director.
Kelly said the goal was for him to listen to everyone’s concerns. He also stressed that this needs to be about the residents’ safety, not about politics.
“Let’s not make it about whether it’s a red issue or a blue issue. Let’s make sure it’s a red, white and blue issue,” Kelly said.
Local leaders said they’re hoping for better communication from state and federal officials.
“On an on-going basis, keep the local township and borough officials and the county officials, that they’ll keep us informed as to what is transpiring,” Vogler said.