The health resource center will open Tuesday in the Darlington Township Building for residents affected by the train derailment and subsequent chemical burn earlier this month. It is scheduled to be open through March 10.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health is opening a health resource center in Darlington Township, Beaver County, for residents who have health concerns following the fiery train derailment and subsequent burning of hazardous chemicals in nearby East Palestine, Ohio earlier this month.
Starting Tuesday, the center will be open every weekday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Darlington Township Building. It is scheduled to operate through March 10.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture will also be on hand at the center to help residents sign up for free, independent water testing and to provide guidance on food and animal safety.
“Pennsylvanians who are concerned about the impacts of the derailment on their health will have an additional resource to turn to, where they can talk to public health experts right in their own community,” Governor Josh Shapiro said in a statement.
Yesterday, state and federal Departments of Health began door-to-door visits within the one-mile evacuation area to conduct Assessment of Chemical Exposure surveys that include discussing symptoms, experiences, and concerns about the impact of the train derailment.
The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) also launched an online dashboard last week which 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. So far, no concerning readings have been detected. Testing will continue for the foreseeable future, according to PEMA.
Last week, Shapiro filed a criminal referral against Norfolk Southern—the company that owns the train that derailed—to acting state Attorney General Michelle Henry and vowed to hold the railway company accountable for the derailment and subsequent burning of hazardous chemicals.
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.
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 (the safety equipment firefighters wear), hoses, respirators, and 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.”