EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WKBN) — U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance (R – Ohio) was back in East Palestine Monday afternoon to talk with city officials and residents about the clean up following the Feb. 3 train derailment. Afterward, he held a news conference — at which he said he’s “incredibly frustrated” with the pace of the clean up.
Monday afternoon in the village — 193 days after the train derailed — crews could be seen cleaning up the mess left behind, while less than a mile away inside the village hall, Vance was critical of the cleanup process.
“I’ve been incredibly frustrated with the pace of the cleanup. The fact that I was told the clean up would be done in June, and told the cleanup would be done at the end of July — and then told the clean up now is going to be done sometime next year,” Vance said.
Vance said that while talking with village officials, he heard for the first time of issues with the EPA’s approval process. Approval is first needed to dig up the soil, then another approval to dispose of it.
“The EPA is taking way too long to give those approvals,” Vance said. “What that means is, it’s taking way too long to clean up this town.”
“They’re going to have 10 years of exposure, and no one knows what 10 years of exposure to chemicals like this actually looks like,” Vance said. “We have to give them that answer. And maybe the answer isn’t good — I hope that it is — but maybe the answer isn’t good, but the very worst thing is no answer at all.”
Vance called it “crazy” — in the era that we live in — that the federal government has no competency with long term chronic exposure to toxic chemicals. He said he has a plan.
“We’re trying to actually work with some local universities and find some funding to create some baseline testing, to give people some sense of what contaminates were here before the Norfolk Southern crash and after the Norfolk Southern crash,” Vance said. “I think we’re going to be successful in that.”
Vance also talked about his effort to pass the Railroad Safety Act. He said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer refuses to bring it up for a vote — but Vance said, should it be voted on, he’s confident it would pass.