Americans have come under fire from East Palestine, Ohio, residents. EPA for its response to the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train, which discharged contaminants into the town’s environment, including vinyl chloride, a plastic manufacture chemical related to liver cancer.
The EPA’s internal watchdog has since announced that it will look into how the agency handled the disaster.
The EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) stated in a statement on Monday that as part of the investigation, we will conduct interviews, acquire information, and examine some concerns, including risk communication, soil and sediment sampling, hazardous waste disposal, and air and water monitoring.
An agency spokeswoman declined to explain to The Guardian why it decided to look into the matter. The EPA, however, has come under fire for the tests it carried out after the incident to ensure that the derailment site and the area around it were safe for inhabitants.
According to Kyla Bennett of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a former EPA scientist, there are too many unanswered issues and contradictory pieces of evidence. The IG can investigate the reasoning behind the choices made on how the testing was conducted and determine whether those choices were adequate.
Testing for dioxins was one of the most contentious issues regarding the government’s response to the derailment. Stephen Lester of the Center for Health, Environment & Justice explained this type of harmful and persistent chemical in an opinion piece for The Guardian.
Dioxin is not produced on purpose. According to Lester, it is an accidental result of industrial processes that use or burn chlorine.
But why didn’t the EPA conduct a dioxin test right after burning five cars’ worth of vinyl chloride and other chemicals under controlled conditions in the days following the derailment? Instead, it didn’t declare that Norfolk Southern had been told to test for dioxins until March 2, or nearly a month later. More than 100 organizations responded by writing a letter to the agency on March 13 with suggestions for how the testing should go, suggesting that EPA should undertake the testing itself and set up a thorough, transparent process open to public participation.
The letter stated that the neighboring and downwind communities have a right to know whether the fire led to elevated dioxin concentrations. The testing process must be open and thorough. This would serve as evidence of the EPA’s dedication to a thorough response to this catastrophe, the advancement of environmental justice, and the restoration of confidence with East Palestine and other afflicted communities.
Instead, the EPA gave Norfolk Southern permission to continue the testing. Dioxin levels were initially found to be hundreds of times the level at which EPA scientists discovered they could cause cancer in 2010, but they were still below the federal action trigger, which was never updated after the findings, according to The Guardian, whose landfill is storing East Palestine soil.
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According to NBC News, the EPA has maintained that current levels are comparable to average background levels but has withheld its data, stating the final study won’t be available for several weeks.
I think it absurd that the EPA makes claims like this without offering any supporting evidence. Lester told NBC News that this approach is completely opaque.
According to the creator of Beyond Plastics, Judith Enck, a former regional administrator for the EPA, the organization made two critical errors: postponing the test and placing Norfolk Southern in charge.
She remarked, “I am aware of what the EPA is capable of. Without a doubt, they ought to have handled this themselves rather than delegating it to the business’s contractor given the community’s already high level of mistrust. The EPA has to acknowledge that.
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Advocates and residents are now hoping that the OIG inquiry may offer some solutions.
According to Ohio River Valley Organizing Director Amanda Kiger, they are not performing their duties, and everyone is aware of it. It’s all a clusterfuck, for lack of a better word, but I hope it’s a decent, in-depth investigation.