The Ohio Department of Health (ODH), in partnership with the Columbiana County Health Department and with support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will open a Health Assessment Clinic at noon on Tuesday, Feb. 21, for any East Palestine area residents who have medical questions or concerns related to the train derailment on Feb. 3. 20 of the train’s 150 cars were listed as carrying hazardous materials. The resulting fire and smoke made it necessary for thousands of residents to evacuate their homes.
The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has been monitoring air quality, spills and cleanup operations. On February 11, EPA said it had issued a general notice of potential liability letter to train operator Norfolk Southern to document the release or threat of release of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants to the environment following the train derailment. The letter outlines EPA cleanup actions at the site and the potential to hold the railroad accountable for associated costs.
The Health Assessment Clinic that opens today will be held at the First Church of Christ, 20 W. Martin St., in East Palestine. In addition to two assessment rooms inside, a mobile unit operated by the Community Action Agency of Columbiana County, will be parked outside the church in order to accommodate more appointments.
Registered nurses and mental health specialists will be on hand. A toxicologist will either be on site or available by phone.
“Last week, I was in East Palestine and listened as many area residents expressed their concerns and fears,” said ODH Director Bruce Vanderhoff, MD, MBA. “I heard you, the state heard you, and now the Ohio Department of Health and many of our partner agencies are providing this clinic, where people can come and discuss these vital issues with medical providers. We encourage anyone who has medical concerns or questions to take advantage of this resource.”
The clinic is a chance for area residents to discuss concerns and receive a health assessment. Referrals will be made if needed.
Hours this week (Feb. 21-25) are:
Church assessment rooms
Tuesday 12-6 p.m.
Wednesday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Thursday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m..
Tuesday 12-6 p.m.
Thursday-Friday: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Hours next week (Feb. 27 to March 4) will be:
Church assessment rooms
Monday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Tuesday-Thursday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation into the Feb 3. Derailment is ongoing. NTSB is conducting a safety investigation to determine the probable cause of the derailment and issue any safety recommendations, if necessary, to prevent future derailments. The NTSB can also issue urgent recommendations at any point during the investigation. NTSB investigators have identified and examined the rail car that initiated the derailment. Surveillance video from a residence showed what appears to be a wheel bearing in the final stage of overheat failure moments before the derailment. The wheelset from the suspected railcar has been collected as evidence for metallurgical examination. The suspected overheated wheel bearing has been collected and will be examined by engineers from the NTSB Materials Laboratory in Washington, D.C. NTSB has obtained locomotive event recorder data, forward- and inward-facing image recording data and wayside defect detector data. A preliminary report is expected to publish within the next ten days.
Pressure increased on Norfolk Southern on Feb. 16 when Van Buren Police and Fire Departments responded to another train derailment including approximately 30 Norfolk Southern railroad cars, located between Martinsville & Haggerty roads, south of Huron River Drive. Van Buren Office of Public Safety said there was no evidence of exposed hazardous materials. “The involved train had one railcar that contained liquid chlorine; however it was located away from the overturned section, and was part of the section of railcars removed first,” a statement said.
There was a further train derailment in Ohio on Feb 19. This latest incident occurred in Delphos, near the state’s western border. The train took out electric poles and closed intersections after it jumped the track. The area was cleared by the Delphos Fire Department and there have been no reports of any injuries of hazardous substances.
The U.S. Department of Transportation is calling for the freight rail industry to be held accountable and is demanding a set of reforms to improve safety.