Ohio Train Derailment: Buttigieg Going to East Palestine More Than 2 Weeks After Toxic Disaster

Ohio Train Derailment
Overhead shot of burned chemical cars in East Palestine, Ohio.National Transportation Safety Board

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will visit the toxic site of Ohio train derailment after being pilloried by Republicans and Democrats.

More than two weeks after an Ohio train derailment created a toxic disaster, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will arrive Thursday in East Palestine to view the damage.

Buttigieg has been publicly pilloried by residents, environmental activists and politicians for what has been called a slow and dismal response to raging fires and spewing chemicals caused by the massive crash earlier this month.

The country's transportation czar said he waited for the National Transportation Safey Board to begin its investigation before heading to the decimated site.

"I have followed the normal practice of transportation secretaries in the early days after a crash, allowing NTSB to lead the safety work and staying out of their way," Buttigieg  CBS News Tuesday. "But I am very eager to have conversations with people in East Palestine about how this has impacted them."

And they are very eager to talk to him.

Former President Donald Trump came to town Wednesday, blasting the Biden administration's response and promising to deliver bottled water.

“In too many cases, your goodness and perseverance were met with indifference and betrayal," Trump said. 

The Environmental Protection Agency vowed Tuesday to force the train's operator, Norfolk Southern, to pay for all clean-up costs or face fines of up to $70,000 per day. 

Angry residents have lambasted local, state and federal authorities, alleging they have been misled and ignored about the dangers of buring chemicals from the derailment. One of the most troubling chemicals, poisonous vinyl chloride, burned when 50 cars careened off the tracks on Feb. 3. Days later, the rail company released more of the toxic chemical and then set it on fire, in order to avoid a colossal explosion, the firm said.

Meanwhile, property owners have reported dead and dying animals and fish, and many of the rural town's residents packed up and left for good, saying they and their children were sickened by putrid fumes emanating from the crash site.

Multiple state and federal agencies are testing and examining contamination levels in the soil and water, and say thus far, no dangerous levels have been detected.

That did not appease those who still live in East Palestine. At a town hall meeting last week, enraged homeowners demanded answers.

“Why are people getting sick if there’s nothing in the air or in the water?” one resident yelled during the gathering.

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