Ohio train derailment impact spreads to more states

by Chris Lange

Chris Lange, FISM News


The impact of the Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio that leaked deadly chemicals into the air, soil, and water, continues to spread to other states. The Associated Press reported on Monday that officials in Texas and Michigan recently voiced concerns about contaminated wastewater and soil being transported to their states for disposal.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo told a press briefing that half a million gallons of wastewater from the site was delivered to Deer Park, Texas last week and that an additional 1.5 million gallons is expected. Deer Park is home to Texas Molecular, a hazardous waste disposal facility that injects toxic waste into the ground as a means of disposal.

“I also want folks to know that there are many things we don’t know that we should know. That doesn’t mean that something is wrong,” Hidalgo said, per Houston-area NBC affiliate Click2Houston.com. “The company has assured us that they have stored the firefighting water ‘in a way to remove the risk to water, groundwater, air emissions and protect public health.’”

Meanwhile, Michigan Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell raised questions after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced that contaminated soil from the site will be transported by truck to a disposal site near Ann Arbor, Michigan, per the AP report.

“We were not given a heads up on this reported action,” Dingell said, adding that she planned to contact DeWine’s office and federal and Ohio officials, “to understand what is being shipped … and how we ensure the safety of all Michigan residents.”

West Virginia officials previously reported the discovery of traces of butyl acrylate in its waterways, one of the chemicals that leaked from damaged rail cars. Meanwhile, a group of Pennsylvania residents near the Ohio state line filed a class action lawsuit against Norfolk Southern, claiming that they were sickened as a result of the release of toxic chemicals into the air, likely due to the controlled burn of leaked chemicals at the site by clean-up crews in an effort to avert a possible explosion.


President Biden on Friday dispatched teams from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to East Palestine, where officials began conducting door-to-door checks on affected families the following day. 

Residents were evacuated immediately after the derailment but told two days later that it was safe to return. Many individuals and families have since expressed heightened fears of long-term damage, citing skin and respiratory symptoms, lingering chemical smells and illnesses, and deaths of livestock and pets, as well as the deaths of more than 40,000 aquatic species.

The announcement from Biden came on the same day House Republicans launched a probe into the federal government’s slow response to the disaster, including the fact that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg waited a full week before even acknowledging the derailment and another three weeks to visit the site, showing up a day after former President Donald Trump’s visit. Buttigieg has received bipartisan criticism over his response to the wreck.

President Biden rejected accusations that his administration has been virtually AWOL in offering assistance to affected residents as he fielded questions from reporters on the White House lawn Friday. The president, who said that he had no immediate plans to visit East Palestine, was making his way to board Air Force One for another weekend stay in Delaware when a reporter questioned whether he would eventually visit the site.

“We were there two hours after the train went down. Two hours,″ Biden snapped. “I’ve spoken with every single major figure in both Pennsylvania and in Ohio. And so the idea that we’re not engaged is simply not there,” he said.

House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) sent a letter to Buttigieg on Friday requesting information about his public response to the derailment and documents reflecting any changes made to the DOT’s train policies with regard to the transport of hazardous materials.

“Despite the U.S. Department of Transportation’s responsibility to ensure safe and reliable transport in the United States, you ignored the catastrophe for over a week,” Comer wrote in the letter that was signed by 20 other lawmakers. “The American people deserve answers as to what caused the derailment, and DOT needs to provide an explanation for its leadership’s apathy in the face of this emergency.”

Comer also requested updates on the progress of the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) investigation into the derailment. 

A preliminary report released Thursday by the NTSB pointed to an overheated axle bearing as the cause of the derailment. The report indicated that the train’s three operators had little time to prevent dozens of cars from going off the tracks, 20 of which were carrying toxic chemicals. 

For his part, Buttigieg has blamed the Trump administration for the derailment, citing rollbacks of EPA policies.

FISM’s Willie R. Tubbs reported on Sunday that Buttigieg was asked during his visit to East Palestine “how long” he planned to “blame the Trump administration” for his failures since he’s been at the helm of DOT for more than two years. 

Buttigieg replied that it was time for the “Trump administration alumni to take responsibility” for their part in the problem but walked away when asked why he hadn’t taken any steps to reverse the Trump-era rollbacks or to increase train safety regulations.


Fox News reported on Saturday that another Norfolk Southern train derailed in Lexington, North Carolina on Saturday morning.

A spokesperson for the company told Fox News Digital that residents in the area have nothing to worry about.

“One of our trains traveling through Lexington derailed this morning. Of the train’s 132 cars, 1 [set of wheels] has derailed. There are no reports of a hazmat situation or danger to the public. Our crew is safe and additional personnel are on their way to begin cleanup. We appreciate the public’s patience and care near this area during the cleanup work,” the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, USA Today reported on Feb. 17 that a Norfolk Southern train wrecked in eastern Michigan.

No injuries were reported in either crash.