State Makes Online Resources Available for Western Pa. Residents Impacted by Ohio Train Derailment

FILE - This photo taken with a drone shows portions of a Norfolk Southern freight train that derailed Friday night in East Palestine, Ohio are still on fire at mid-day Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023. On Friday, Feb 24, The Associated Press reported on stories circulating online incorrectly claiming a photo shows birds that “dropped dead” in Kentucky following the Ohio train derailment, and a video shows birds in northern Indiana that also died from the hazardous chemicals released after the derailment. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

By Ashley Adams

February 24, 2023

The online dashboard launched by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency provides current information about air and water testing, and other important resources for residents affected by the train derailment and subsequent chemical burn earlier this month.

The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) has launched an online dashboard for residents in Western Pennsylvania impacted by the fiery train derailment and subsequent burning of hazardous chemicals in nearby East Palestine, Ohio earlier this month.

The dashboard provides information on air and water testing, details on health assessments, updates from the National Transportation Safety Board, and resources for fire departments.

PEMA has been monitoring the air and water in Beaver County since the fiery 50-car train derailment on Feb. 3 along the Ohio-Pennsylvania state line.The wreck prompted a toxic chemical release by the railway company, Norfolk Southern, and an evacuation which included residents of Beaver County. 

So far, no concerning readings have been detected. Testing will continue for the foreseeable future, according to PEMA. 

Democratic US Rep. Chris Deluzio (Allegheny) called on Norfolk to expand the boundaries of the zone in which it is providing financial assistance and testing. He said the current zone excludes many impacted Pennsylvania residents and businesses. Clean up of soil and water should be done up to 30 miles beyond the current zone, he said.

“Norfolk Southern is failing to show any commitment to rebuilding lost trust in our community,” Deluzio wrote in a letter to Norfolk’s CEO Alan Shaw. Providing additional resources “would help your company restore the sense of security that the Norfolk Southern train derailment and its aftermath destroyed.”

Earlier this week, Gov. Josh Shapiro filed a criminal referral against Norfolk to acting state Attorney General Michelle Henry and vowed to hold the railway company accountable for the train derailment and chemical burn.

Shapiro accused Norfolk of mismanaging the disaster from the outset, citing the company’s failure to immediately notify the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and PEMA. Norfolk’s actions, he said, hampered the response from local and state agencies, and put residents and first responders at serious risk. Shapiro also said the company had been unwilling to look at alternatives to intentionally releasing and burning the five cars filled with vinyl chloride. 

Shapiro also visited residents in Darlington Township in Beaver County this week after they received water testing from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Shapiro said the area continues to see no concerning air or water quality readings following the train derailment, echoing the assurances county officials gave to residents last week. 

In addition, Shapiro called on Norfolk to reimburse fire departments in western Pennsylvania for the cost of replacing all equipment contaminated during the response and remediation.

Fire companies from Beaver, Lawrence, and Washington counties responded to the derailment and have since reported contaminated turnout gear, hose, and Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) along with some drop tanks for water supply operations.

“Pennsylvanians impacted by this incident are safe right now because of the hard work and public service of first responders and fire departments in western Pennsylvania,” Shapiro said in a statement. “First responders answered the call – their departments deserve to be made whole and we expect Norfolk Southern to quickly reimburse any department that responded to the derailment and needs to replace equipment. My administration will continue to hold Norfolk Southern accountable for any and all impacts on the commonwealth.”

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Author

  • Ashley Adams

    In her 16 years in the communications industry, Ashley Adams has worn many hats, including news reporter, public relations writer, marketing specialist, copy editor and technical writer. Ashley grew up in Berks County and has since returned to her roots to raise her three children.

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