Ohio to set up medical clinic in East Palestine following train derailment

DeWine: It’s time for US Congress to look at rail safety in this country

Gov. Mike DeWine announced Friday the Ohio Department of Health is creating a medical clinic in East Palestine following a Norfolk Southern train derailment on Feb. 3.

The clinic will be established over the next few days with professionals from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services coming to help answer residents’ questions and evaluate their symptoms.

“The people who will come in will also have access to the best experts in the world in regard to chemical exposures,” DeWine said. “We are doing this because we know the concern that has been expressed by so many of the residents.”

DeWine added the state wanted to make sure residents without health insurance or a primary care doctor had somewhere to go to address health concerns.

The clinic is not being created in response to concerns due to water or air samplings.

“This is not based on anything that we’re seeing in the sampling in the air,” the governor said. “This not based on anything we’re seeing in the sampling of the water.”

Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said local medical providers in East Palestine will also have access to experts and resources to address their patients’ concerns and questions.

“My team and I and representatives from many agencies have been with the community right from the beginning and we are going to continue to listen to the community and support them and work with them to ensure their best health,“ Vanderhoff said.

Medical officials at the clinic plan to start seeing patients early next week.

Information on the clinic’s location and hours will be posted at https://ema.ohio.gov/media-publications/020523-train-derailment.

Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Director Lori Criss encouraged residents to pay attention to how they and their loved ones are feeling.

Common stress responses include feelings of disbelief and numbness, a disruption in appetite and sleep and chance in energy levels, she said. While those feelings will decrease over time, they can feel intense and overwhelming and some people may struggle to maintain typical daily life.

People can call the Ohio CareLine 24/7 at 800 -720-9616 as well as the Family Assistance Center at 800-230-7049.

DeWine also called for Congress to look at rail safety and what responsibility railroad companies have to notify states of what trains are carrying.

“I think it’s time now for Congress to take a look at rail safety in this country,” he said. “....The federal government historically has preempted states from controlling this and the states from being able to control what comes into Ohio, what goes out of Ohio and what goes through Ohio. The responsibility is with the federal government to make those changes.”

He noted because of federal preemption Ohio cannot prohibit railroads from coming into the state. But if the state is aware of a train carrying hazardous materials, officials could notify fire departments and emergency management services along the routes of the train of what it’s carrying and around what time it would move through the region.

The governor said he will hold Norfolk Southern responsible for paying for the damage and results of the crash.

“We’re going to make sure they’re going to fulfill their duty,” he said.

DeWine added he’s been in contact with Norfolk Southern’s CEO and was disappointed the company pulled out of a recent town hall.

The governor’s office has also filed paperwork with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to preserve the Ohio’s rights to seek help from the agency if needed at a later date.

As of Friday morning, DeWine said FEMA continued to report Ohio does not qualify for aid. He noted the agency is typically involved in disasters with serious home and property damage, such as tornadoes.

If in the future Ohio becomes eligible for FEMA aid, the governor said his office will file whatever paperwork is needed to get the assistance.

DeWine also reported Friday test results from East Palestine’s municipal water source has come back clean and is safe to drink.

Those on the municipal water source do not need to continue drinking bottled water, the governor said.

While officials never thought the municipal water source was contaminated, DeWine said the water was tested out an abundance of caution. Likewise, he advised those on private wells to have their water sources tested and should continue to drink bottled water.

People can call 330-849-3919 to schedule free water testing.

A chemical plume from the derailment in the Ohio River has dissipated and crews can no longer detect butyl acrylate, DeWine said. There is a section of Sulphur Run close to the crash site that remains “severely contaminated,” he added.

Crews are working to remediate the area, which was dammed to prevent further contamination. People should avoid the area at this time.

Water and air testing will continue in East Palestine for as long as needed, DeWine said.

There are 20 monitors placed around the village to continue to monitor the air quality. The monitors are continuing to come back clean and will be strategically moved throughout East Palestine monitor outdoor air quality.

The governor also encouraged anyone whose pet or livestock is ill or has died suddenly to contact their veterinarian or the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for testing.

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