Republican Ohio Governor Mike DeWine was turned down by the Biden administration. Mike DeWine requested federal disaster assistance following a train accident in East Palestine. Several hazardous chemicals were released into the air and waterways, according to Dan Tierney, DeWine’s press secretary.
Tierney explained to the DCNF that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), stated that Ohio was not eligible for assistance as the incident didn’t qualify as a national catastrophe. Nearly two weeks had passed since a Norfolk Southern train carrying harmful chemicals was unable to stop. Nearly 2,000 people were evacuated from the area before a controlled release released the fumes.
Tierney explained that FEMA defines a national disaster declaration when there is damage to property from a tornado, flood or hurricane. Since the train cars that were derailing did not block roads, cause power outages or otherwise affect residents’ property, FEMA does not currently have any associated costs.
FEMA’s press secretary Jeremy Edwards told the DCNF that FEMA was in constant contact with East Palestine’s emergency operations center and the Ohio Emergency Management Agency. “We are closely coordinating our efforts with EPA and HHS and the CDC who are helping to assess water quality and conduct public health assessments.
Tierney informed the DCNF that Norfolk Southern will pay for expenses related the the derailment, including hotel costs for those temporarily displaced. Ohio is not eligible for FEMA assistance unless it can show that the town sustained property damage that is not reimbursable.
Tierney stated, “Certainly, if FEMA says there’s a program that we can apply, that we qualify for, we will. But, there’s nothing that we are eligible or that we know Ohio is eligible for that FEMA can grant us an application for.”
He stated that the state was provided with aid by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Debra Shore, regional administrator of the EPA, stated that 396 homes were screened by the agency and 64 more would be screened as of Tuesday. The EPA reported that no vinyl chloride or hydrogen chlorineide was detected in these homes.
However, residents are still concerned about the long-term health effects of the disaster. According to DeWine’s Wednesday water quality update, the Ohio Department of Health is advising residents to use bottled water until their private wells are tested.
A public hearing was held Wednesday at a local high-school. Residents voiced their concerns. Representatives from Norfolk Southern were scheduled to attend but they resigned at the last moment due to safety concerns.
“I’m just so frustrated. Trent Conaway, East Palestine mayor, said that he lives in the same community as you. “I’m trying for answers.”
Conaway, HHS, EPA, Pentagon, and the Pentagon did not immediately respond with comment to DCNF’s request. Norfolk Southern couldn’t be reached.