The Biden administration has refused requests from Ohio Governor Mike DeWine to provide help via the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to aid in the cleanup and recovery from the February 3 50-car train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio that released toxic chemicals, including vinyl chloride, into the area.
According to Fox News, on Thursday DeWine's office said in a statement, "The DeWine Administration has been in daily contact with FEMA to discuss the need for federal support, however, FEMA continues to tell Governor DeWine that Ohio is not eligible for assistance at this time."
FEMA spokesperson Jeremy Edwards said, "FEMA is in constant contact with the emergency operations center in East Palestine and with the Ohio Emergency Management Agency. We are closely coordinating with EPA, HHS, and the CDC, who are helping to test water and air quality, and to conduct public health assessments."
After the derailment released the toxic chemicals Ohio residents had been ordered out of their homes. As The Post Millennial reported, initial accounts noted that five of the derailed train cars carried vinyl chloride, a colorless gas used to make PVC plastics. On February 6, authorities began burning off the chemicals to reduce the risk of a vinyl chloride explosion. As residents returned home on February 9, they found the odor of chemicals lingering in the air and dead fish in rivers and creeks. As the dead fish appear in streams residents have grown worried that the local water supply has become contaminated.
DeWine Spokesperson Dan Tierney told Fox that FEMA said the train derailment did not qualify as a natural disaster, such as a tornado or earthquake, and was therefore ineligible for aid.
According to the "Current Disasters" portion of the FEMA website, "Disasters can come in many forms. FEMA responds to all declared domestic disasters and emergencies, whether natural or man-made."
On the "Declared Disasters" section of the FEMA website, several incidents of aid have been provided that were not prompted by weather based events such as tornadoes and hurricanes. One example was FEMA providing aid after the January 25, 2020 Tennessee explosion which was the result of an improvised explosive device's blast. In that case, the bomber, Anthony Quinn Warner, was found to be a lone bomber and not a terrorist who detonated the device mostly as a form of suicide, according to the FBI.
Spokesperson Tierney said "The people of East Palestine need to be made whole" and that the trails operator, Norfolk Southern Railroad, has given aid to the community.
Norfolk Southern Railroad has offered financial compensation to displaced residents but local hazardous materials specialist Sil Caggiano, told Fox, "The railroad company is responsible for this and for these people who went back to their homes. Their homes should have been tested. Their homes should have been cleaned."
Lawyers representing residents in East Palestine said, "We want to get out the word to folks. Do not, if you can afford it, again, emphasizing if you can afford it, do not take this upfront money."
"But if you do, be aware that these folks might argue later that this is payment in full," they added.
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