Biden administration tries to reassure after chemical train derailment
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The Biden administration sought reassurance on Thursday after a train carrying chemicals derailed in an Ohio town whose residents, increasingly worried about their health, demand explanations.
“I want people to know that they don't have to deal with this case alone (…). We will be there to help,” said the head of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Michael Regan, who visited the site, in East Palestine, in the northeast of the country. /p>
Mr Regan said no trace of vinyl chloride or hydrogen chloride was detected after more than 480 homes were examined, and the water was tested and retested “to ensure these communities are protected”.
“We are going to shed full light” on what happened, assured for his part in Washington the spokesperson for President Joe Biden, Karine Jean-Pierre. And “we're going to hold Norfolk Southern,” the rail company operating the train, to account, she added.
On February 3, the derailment caused a huge fire and the evacuation of several hundred people. Among other things, the train was carrying vinyl chloride, a carcinogenic and highly flammable chemical used in the manufacture of plastic.
The railway authorities then carried out “controlled” releases of vinyl chloride “to avoid a possible explosion,” according to the Ohio governor’s office, releasing toxic fumes into the air.
Since then, the case has steadily escalated as residents have raised their concerns.
Some have reported to media that they have had various symptoms, including headaches, and said they feared they would end up with cancer in a few years. Some 3,500 fish also died in nearby waterways, according to the local natural resources agency.
Based on tests, authorities said the air was 'safe' and that municipal system water testing detected no pollutants.
They advise people using water from private wells, however, to have it tested and to continue to drink bottled water while waiting for the results.
Residents, who have been allowed to return to their homes, show their mistrust.
One told the local channel WKYC that residents were “suspicious, paranoid and worried”. Another shared her “fear.”
“I fear for my family, I fear for my city,” Kelly Felger told CNN.