Unity Council continues to pressure DeWine for emergency declaration

EAST PALESTINE — The Unity Council for East Palestine Train Derailment – a community oversight committee formed by Ohio and Pennsylvania residents impacted by the Norfolk Southern Train Derailment — continues to pressure Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine to declare East Palestine and the surrounding communities a disaster area.

DeWine submitted a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in March requesting a 120-day extension to request for a major disaster declaration in the East Palestine train derailment and has until July 3 to do so before the deadline passes. In a press release concerning the extension, the governor’s office stated that it “will help ensure that East Palestine can receive assistance from FEMA should the derailment qualify for traditional FEMA aid in the future.” The Unity Council says that without a declaration, areas impacted will miss out on “critical emergency resources to the community to ensure public health and safety for the present and the future.”

While both DeWine and the Unity Council appear to be on the same page, DeWine’s failure to make a disaster declaration to date was the push in forming the community oversight panel.

According to DeWine’s office, the East Palestine derailment does not qualify under FEMA’s guidelines due to lack of unreimbursed property damage caused. Ironically, it was another rail disaster that is cited as one of catalysts in the establishment of FEMA by

President Jimmy Carter’s executive order in 1979. The Waverly tank car explosion occurred in February of 1978 after a tanker of liquefied petroleum gas that derailed days earlier exploded during cleanup efforts. Sixteen people were killed in the explosion and 43 injured.

Relief distribution set for today

Water, food and baby items will be given out today from 5 to 7 p.m. at the East Palestine Church of the Nazarene located at 38 E. Rebecca St. Due to limited supplies, the giveaway is open to East Palestine residents only.

Those needing supplies are asked to enter the parking lot behind the church on North Sumner and provide identification to prove residency.

NF Family Assistance reopens at new location

The Norfolk Southern Family Assistance Center has been relocated to East Palestine. The center officially opened its doors at its new location in Rebecca’s Place, located at 191 E. Rebecca St., East Palestine. The East Palestine center replaces the one set up in the days following the disaster at Abundant Life Fellowship Church in New Waterford.

The center’s hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The center will remain closed on Sundays. Residents can contact the center at 800-230-7049 during the center’s regular hours. Residents who are seeking assistance are asked to provide a driver’s license or other government-issued identification, proof of residency (current utility bill), proof of dependency (minor child’s birth certificate or Social Security card) and receipts for any out-of-pocket expenses.

EPA Welcome Center resumes normal hours

Closed for the East Palestine Street Fair and holiday weekend, EPA’s Welcome Center is back open at its 25 N. Market St. location. The welcome center hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. The center is closed on Sunday. The EPA information phone number has changed to 330-775-6517.

Remediation on tracks near completion

Norfolk Southern is nearing completion of the second set of tracks. Crews have sampled the centerline area between the north and south tracks and are awaiting results to determine if additional excavation is needed.

Work on the south track was completed in April, meeting the railroad’s self-imposed deadline, and remediation immediately began on the north-bound tracks. So far, an estimated 48,521 tons of solid waste and contaminated soil has been shipped off site with an additional 18,759,921 gallons of liquid waste shipped removed.

Asbestos not related to derailment

Information released by the EPA in April and recirculating within the community last week about asbestos containing material (ACM) at the derailment site is not related to the crash itself, the EPA reiterated. The ACM was discovered during remediation efforts. The EPA reports that the ACM was unrelated to the incident and that “the material was not included within either the train or the materials being transported.” The ACM has since been disposed of in accordance with regulations.

Registration still open for benefit 5K

Registration for the Road2Recovery Hometown Walk & 5K Run in East Palestine remains underway. Legendary Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis will be the guest host at the June 10 event that organizers hope will give local small businesses a boost and raise money for youth initiatives in East Palestine. So far, proceeds have exceeded $100,000.

The cost to participate is $10 per child and $20 per adult. To register or learn more about the event, visit road2recoveryep.com.

NFS to co-sponsor Fourth of July in the village

Norfolk Southern, in partnership with the East Palestine Firefighter’s Association and Brittain Motors, will co-sponsor the village’s Independence Day Celebration.

The day kicks off at 1 p.m. on July 4 with free bounce houses and food trucks. Live music will take place from 2 to 9:50 p.m. with fireworks set to start at 10 p.m.

A 50/50 and raffle for a chance to win books of Ohio Lottery scratch-offs will be held.

Additional sponsors are still being sought for the event. For information on sponsorships, contact Johnathon Seabrook at J.seabrook@eastpalestine-oh.gov.


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