Norfolk Southern says cost of fiery Ohio derailment doubles to $803 million as cleanup continues
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“Coordinator McPherson will help ensure successful recovery efforts over the long-term.”

CHICAGO — Following an executive order from President Joe Biden, FEMA has appointed a coordinator for recovery efforts in East Palestine as they continue to clean up from the toxic train derailment that happened in February. 

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FEMA announced on Thursday that they are designating Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator Jim McPherson to “conduct a comprehensive assessment of any unmet needs that are not addressed by Norfolk Southern and would qualify for Federal assistance.”

Officials say that McPherson will also work with federal, state and local governments as well as the private sector, voluntary, faith-based and community organizations supporting the recovery.

“In the aftermath of Norfolk Southern’s train derailment, FEMA worked closely with state, local, and federal partners to support the people of East Palestine and the state of Ohio,” said FEMA Region 5 Administrator Tom Sivak. “President Biden’s Executive Order affirms the Administration’s ongoing and steadfast commitment to supporting impacted communities, and Coordinator McPherson will help ensure successful recovery efforts over the long-term.”

President Biden’s executive order came more than seven months after the toxic train derailment in East Palestine. The executive order directed federal agencies to take several actions as part of the effort to help clean up the area while also holding Norfolk Southern accountable. 

Here are other parts of Biden’s executive order:

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “will continue to direct removal of contaminated soils and wastewater from the derailment site, in compliance with state and federal law. In addition, EPA will ensure that any remaining contamination in surface stream sediments is addressed, and that air and water monitoring continue.”

Within 30 days, the EPA will also provide a report to Biden on the status of air, soil, and water monitoring. They will also verify if Norfolk Southern is complying with federal mandates “to address the imminent and substantial endangerment” caused by the derailment. The EPA will then give the president an updated report every 60 days.  

  • The Department of Health and Human Services will give Biden a report within 60 days “summarizing key conclusions from the public health testing and assessment that has been conducted to date,” plus the resources used by HHS and the CDC to address health conditions related to the derailment.

In coordination with Ohio and other affected states, the HHS will monitor the “public health consequences” of the derailment, including to determine if any acute medical conditions develop. Should medical conditions develop. the Biden administration says the HHS and EPA will each evaluate to see if a public health emergency should be declared. HHS will also provide assistance to Ohio and Pennsylvania if either state submits a proposal for services through Medicaid for those affected by the derailment.

  • The Department of Transportation will provide a report to Biden within 60 days, detailing its response to the East Palestine train derailment. This report will be updated within 120 days of the final National Transportation Safety Board investigation.

3News’ Dave DeNatale contributed to this story.


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