COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Gov. Mike DeWine said in a press conference Tuesday that the train that derailed in East Palestine was not classified as hazardous before it crashed.
On Feb. 3, 50 cars on a Norfolk Southern freight train derailed in East Palestine. Among the cars were 10 carrying hazardous materials. This led DeWine to issue an evacuation order for people living nearby in preparation for a chemical release.
In the Tuesday update, DeWine said that he learned from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio that this train was not considered a highly hazardous train, meaning there was no requirement to notify residents the train was coming through.
DeWine remarked that this classification of the train was “absurd” and called on Congress to look into this for the future. He also said he received a call from President Joe Biden where Biden provided support from the federal government if needed.
The Governor also said he spoke with Norfolk Southern and was reassured by their CEO that they would pay for everything and remain at the crash site until a full cleanup is completed.
“They are responsible for this,” said DeWine. He also added Ohio attorney general Dave Yost could get involved if Norfolk Southern does not hold its end of that bargain.
Authorities burned vinyl chloride inside five tanker cars, sending hydrogen chloride and the toxic gas phosgene into the air. They said that burn was preferable to the threat of a larger explosion if nothing was done.
As the air and water in the area has been monitored, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said three additional dangerous chemicals were discovered that were on the train that derailed. Some of the chemicals released are carcinogens.
“Look, I think I would be drinking the bottled water, and I would be continuing to find out what the test is showing as far as the air,” DeWine said. “I would be alert and concerned, but I think I would probably be back in my house.”
Residents have also raised concerns about dead fish in the river and sick animals and have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to force Norfolk Southern to set up health monitoring for residents in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, they are estimating 3,500 fish from 12 different species have died in the river. An official with ODNR stated there is no evidence of non-aquatic animals suffering due to the effects of the derailment.
You can watch the full news conference in the player above.
Regarding chemical concerns, an official with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency said there has been no detections of vinyl chloride or other hazardous chemicals in the waterways. A chemical plume is moving through the Ohio River on its way to Huntington, West Virginia but the Ohio EPA assures it does not pose threat to drinking water systems.
“The farther down it travels down the Ohio River, the more it is dissipating, the less concentrated the contaminant plume is,” said Environmental Protection Agency Environmental Administrator Tiffani Kavalec.
Director of the Ohio Department of Health Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff recommended people in the community use bottled water in the short term as they test municipal water sources. He also advised people using a private water source to have their water tested.
“The bottom line is that from the very start of this, we have taken every step possible to assure that people’s safety is first and foremost,” Vanderhoff said. “And with the compounds that we are talking about, in consultation with experts at the national level, we have first made sure that we are providing a clear atmosphere and clean air and now we are actively working to ensure that people for the long run have clean water.”
NewsNation and The Associated Press contributed to this report