(CNSNews.com) – Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Friday that the levels of contamination for the water in East Palestine as a result of the hazardous chemicals from the train derailment is at zero.
Meanwhile, the residents of East Palestine “do not qualify” for help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) like other areas have received for natural disasters like hurricanes, the governor said.
“Now I know there has been a lot of questions about FEMA and calling in FEMA for aid. At this point based on what FEMA has told us and continues to tell us, my chief of staff talked to them again this morning, we do not qualify for assistance,” DeWine said.
“Although FEMA is synonymous with disaster support, they are most typically involved with disasters where there is tremendous home or property damage, tornadoes, flooding, hurricanes. That’s why we do not expect FEMA will come to East Palestine,” he said.
“However, to make sure that if in the future — if in the future FEMA is ever needed, we want to preserve our rights to be able to ask them for help. So to make sure that if FEMA is ever needed in the future to help residents we’ll preemptively file a document with FEMA to preserve our rights in case we need their assistance in the future,” the governor said.
In the meantime, DeWine will go after Norfolk Southern to pay for the damages.
“We believe that the railroad should continue to pay. We’re gonna insist that they pay. Whatever damages have been caused, the railroad is responsible for those damages. We are filing this paper with FEMA just in case in the future we need that,” the governor said.
“Let’s say for example the railroad stops paying for whatever reason. We’re still going to go after the railroad but we want to make sure that there will be support for people if that support does, in fact, stop from the railroad,” he said.
On the air quality testing, the governor said that testing in “approximately 75 homes did show elevated levels of VOCs,” which stands for volatile organic compounds, but he said “further testing in those 75 homes found that contaminants of concern from the derailment were not present in those homes.”
“So nothing from the train derailment was found in the homes. Nothing was found out on the street. The monitoring will continue, however. Today more than two dozen additional homes are scheduled for air testing. The teams are still taking appointments for those people in East Palestine who want to schedule a screening of their home,” DeWine said.
On drinking water testing, the governor said that “testing results from East Palestine’s municipal water source have come back, and the results are that drinking water testing those five wells that go into the community system, those five wells have all come back clean.”
“The water is safe to drink. We never thought that the municipal water was contaminated, but out of an abundance of caution our Ohio EPA took samples which were analyzed and they, in fact, came back and were shown to be safe. You do not need to drink bottled water if you are on municipal water,” he said.
“If you get your water from a private well, you are encouraged to use bottled water until your water is confirmed to be safe. That again is just out of an abundance of caution. To date 38 private wells have been sampled,” DeWine said.
“More private wells are scheduled for testing today. These samples unfortunately take a while to get back from the lab. So we don’t have any results back yet but we expect them very, very soon to start coming back,” he said.
“I’m happy to report this morning that sampling has shown the plume is now completely dissipated. It was never thought to be a threat, but they could get slight detections,” the governor said.
“I want to mention that something I’ve learned during this is the Ohio River is monitored normally very extensively, and so they were able to pick up before they were able to pick up where the plume was, it was never thought to be very high, never thought to be very dangerous, but they could detect it as it moved down river,” DeWine said.
“Now we’re told that they cannot detect it at all. To give you some idea of the numbers. The level of concern for this contaminant is 560 parts per billion. Readings yesterday when we could still get a reading on it were under three parts per billion. So again, level of concern 560. Yesterday it was at three. Today it is at 0. Levels at which this chemical was in the Ohio River have always been very low. We’re no longer getting readings at all,” he said.
The governor said that “some water systems along the Ohio River will close intake lines for the time being out of an abundance of caution.”
We understand that. That’s perfectly fine, but we do believe that there is no reason to be concerned about water now from the Ohio River and there has never really been a reason of concern, and we no longer can get any reading at all of this contaminant.
Let me go to the local creeks. We know that there has been video played on TV circulating of visible physical contamination in one of the local waterways. A section of sulfur run that is very near the crash site remains severely contaminated. We knew this. We know this. It is going to take a while to remediate this.
It will be remediated but it is certainly a place to be avoided at this point. Very soon after the crash, Sulfur Run was dammed so the contamination in that part of the creek does not contaminate any of the other water. It was kept in there and on hold.
Teams are pumping clean water from the point of the eastern dam falling it away from the contaminated section of the creek and releasing it back into sulfur run at the western dam, so diverting it around where the contamination is. This occurred early on, early on after the crash.
This allows clean water to bypass the area of the derailment and prevents clean water from picking up contaminants and carrying them into other waterways.
The governor warned that “remediation of the water in the direct area of the spill” will “take some time just as it is taking some time to deal with the dirt.”
“This is not a simple process. We are encouraging people to continue to avoid that area,” he said.
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