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Indiana Lawmakers Demand Answers From EPA About East Palestine Waste Shipments

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Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) and Rep. Jim Baird (R-Ind.) have raised concerns with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its plan to move hazardous waste materials from the derailed train site in East Palestine, Ohio, to Indiana.

The lawmakers, in a letter (pdf) to EPA Administrator Michael Regan, demanded to know why the materials are coming to their state and listed a string of questions for health officials to answer.

“We have been closely monitoring the Norfolk Southern train derailment and subsequent cleanup. We write out of serious concern with the decision to transport contaminated materials from East Palestine, Ohio, to a disposal facility in Roachdale, Indiana,” the lawmakers wrote.

They went on to note that the EPA had temporarily paused the shipments of contaminated waste materials from the derailment site to Michigan last week amid objections from local authorities.

On Feb. 28, the EPA announced that shipments would resume, despite objections.

However, two days after pausing the shipments to Michigan, the EPA also announced that two facilities—located in Grafton, Ohio, and Roachdale, Indiana—would be used to house the contaminated materials.

Braun and Baird said they were concerned that Republicans’ objections to the shipments being sent to Indiana were not being addressed, as they had previously been with Democratic leaders in Michigan.

Train Derailment Ohio
A black plume rises over East Palestine, Ohio, as a result of a controlled detonation of a portion of the derailed Norfolk Southern trains, on Feb. 6, 2023. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Lack of Communication Between EPA, State Officials

They also noted that the EPA “had promised to notify elected officials and our state agency partners before approving the shipment of any waste from the derailment to their state or district.”

“This does not appear to have been the case in Indiana. In fact, in his statement on February 28, Governor of Indiana Eric Holcomb explained that he learned about the decision to transport contaminated materials to Roachdale ‘third-hand’.”

Holcomb has noted his continued objection to the EPA’s decision and claimed that there has been a lack of communication between the EPA and Indiana elected officials.

In a Feb. 28 statement, Holcomb, a Republican, also said he had learned “third-hand” that the materials would be transported to his state, specifically from the far-eastern side of Ohio to the far-western side of Indiana, meaning they would be transported across the entirety of Indiana.

“We have a high degree of confidence in the Hoosiers operating the facility in Roachdale, Indiana, who are used to and well-practiced in handling these types of contaminated materials. However, we have heard from Hoosiers who share our concerns about how EPA, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and Norfolk Southern have handled the cleanup following the East Palestine derailment,” the lawmakers said in their letter to the EPA.

“Specifically, our constituents have requested increased oversight because they share our concerns about the decision to transport contaminated materials to the Roachdale, Indiana, facility,” they noted.

train derail cleanup
The continuing cleanup of portions of a Norfolk Southern freight train that derailed on Feb. 3, in East Palestine, Ohio, on Feb. 9, 2023. (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Questions to Be Answered

Braun and Baird then posed a number of questions for the EPA to answer, including what on-site testing is being conducted in East Palestine before the contaminated materials are removed, and what specific criteria are used to decide which facilities the contaminated materials are transported to.

Around 38 rail cars on the Norfolk Southern Railroad train carrying hazardous materials including vinyl chloride derailed on Feb. 3 in East Palestine, Ohio.

While no one was injured, toxic chemicals were spilled and officials opted shortly after to release and burn vinyl chloride from five tanker cars, sending thick clouds of smoke into the sky.

Residents have since complained of health issues such as breathing difficulties, rashes, and nausea. After initially being evacuated, locals were told by authorities that it was safe to return to their homes on Feb. 9.

It is unclear exactly what hazardous materials will be sent to Indiana although Norfolk Southern told the EPA in a letter earlier this month that vinyl chloride, ethylhexyl acrylate, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, and other chemicals were being carried by the derailed train.

“I am opposed to the transfer of hazardous materials from the East Palestine train derailment into Indiana,” Braun said in a separate statement to Fox News Digital. “The Biden EPA and Transportation Department have mishandled this disaster from day one. Any material from this disaster being transferred to Indiana overseen by this Biden EPA is seriously concerning. Hoosiers’ safety is my top priority.”

The Epoch Times has contacted the EPA for comment.

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