WASHINGTON — The White House announced Monday that teams from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reached more than 530 East Palestine, Ohio, homes in less than 72 hours, reaching 400 homes. exceeded its target. By Monday.
President Joe Biden on Friday ordered federal agencies to go door-to-door to personally check on residents affected by the February 3 train derailment, which spread toxic chemicals over the area.
The White House said in a statement previously shared with NBC News that federal officials provided additional resources to travelers and conducted health surveys, ensuring that outreach would continue through the week.
The White House has come under fire for not acting quickly enough to intervene and help with the disaster response. Biden has not traveled to the area; His potential 2024 rival, former President Donald Trump, visited last week and harshly criticized the administration. White House officials pushed back against criticism, noting federal teams arrived at the disaster site hours after Norfolk Southern was informed of the derailment.
At an interagency news conference on Monday, Trent Conway, the mayor of East Palestine, was asked if he was satisfied with the response. He replied: “Yes and no. I really think they are trying as hard as they can.
He continued, “They’re saying everything is safe and we’re listening to them, but we need to get to the bottom of what’s happening.”
EPA Administrator Michael Regan will visit East Palestine on Tuesday for the third time since the disaster three weeks ago, as response efforts move from their “emergency” phase to “long-term recovery”.
Regan is expected to announce the opening of a community center where residents can meet with EPA and other agency staff members to learn more about the services available.
Hazardous waste from the site is moving once again after the EPA temporarily halted shipments over the weekend. The material is being taken for testing to EPA disposal sites in nearby East Liverpool and Vickery, Ohio.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg sent a letter Monday urging CEOs of major freight railroads to join a voluntary safety reporting program that could lead to derailments. Buttigieg has asked for answers by the end of the week.
Buttigieg visited eastern Palestine last Thursday when he faced intense pressure from most Republicans for not being more proactive in his response.
The calls are now being directed at Biden, who told reporters on Friday that he was not planning to travel to eastern Palestine “at this time”.
He said: “I had a long meeting with my team, and what they’re doing, you know, two hours after the train went down we were there, two hours. I called every single key person in both Pennsylvania and Ohio And so the idea that we’re not engaged just isn’t there.