Gov. Mike DeWine (R-OH) did not express surprise at a video of Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) drawing chemicals from a creek bed with a stick.
“There are dead worms and dead fish all throughout this water” and “chemicals coming out of the ground,” Vance said in his video. “This is disgusting. And the fact that we have not cleaned up the train crash, the fact that these chemicals are still seeping into the ground is an insult to the people who live in East Palestine.”
The Epoch Times further reported:
On Feb. 17, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine was asked about the video during his press briefing.
“I know that there’s been some video played on TV circulating of visible contamination in one of the local waterways,” DeWine said. “A section of Sulfur Run that is very near the crash site remains severely contaminated. We knew this. We know this. It’s going to take a while to remediate this.”
A polluted section of Sulphur Run stream was dammed in two places not long after the crash to prevent other local waterways from being contaminated, DeWine explained.
Crews were pumping clean water from the eastern dam, moving it away from the contaminated section of the stream, and releasing it at the western dam to pass clean water around the contaminated area.
“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,” DeWine said. “The remediation of the water in the direct area of the spill is going to take some time, just as it is taking some time to deal with the dirt.”
He added: “This is not a simple process. We’re encouraging people to continue to avoid that area.”
On Feb. 3, a Norfolk Southern Railway train derailed in East Palestine, spilling toxic chemicals and causing lingering fires. To prevent an explosion, officials decide to conduct a controlled burn, releasing the chemicals into the air.
Since then, multiple residents in East Palestine have complained of headaches, vomiting, blood in the stool, and skin rashes among other ailments.
Vance, who took office in January, arrived in East Palestine on Feb. 16, explored the area, and addressed the media.
He was asked about the slow response to the derailment from the Biden administration.
Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg first commented about crash 10 days after it happened and wrote on Twitter, “We’re constrained by law on some areas of rail regulation (like the braking rule withdrawn by the Trump administration in 2018 because of a law passed by Congress in 2015), but we are using the powers we do have to keep people safe.”
President Joe Biden has not held a press conference about the derailment. On Feb. 17, the White House reported that Biden has no current plans to visit East Palestine.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that Biden is in Poland to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Russia invading Ukraine.
“I haven’t spoken to President Biden. My message to him is pretty simple. One, the Department of Transportation, your Department of Transportation, has things they can do. Stop blaming Donald Trump, a guy who hasn’t been president for three years, and use the powers of the federal government to do the things necessary to help the people in this community,” Vance said.
“The second thing I’d say is, a lot of this is about leadership and just being available to people and making them realize—look, the biggest concern for the people of East Palestine is that they’re going to be forgotten in a week,” Vance added. “When the cameras disappear and the politicians are no longer around, are there still going to be people who are focused on them?
“I think the president could do a lot,” Vance continued. “Just standing in the White House press room for 30 seconds and saying: ‘People of East Palestine, I see you, we’re not going to forget about you.’ I think that’s an important signal for the president to send.”
Vance told reporters about his experience at Leslie Run Creek.
“I took a stick, and I stuck it in the bed of the creek and pulled it along and chemical bubbled out of the ground. It’s pretty visually stunning,” Vance explained. “If you’re a resident in this community, how do you have confidence in the drinking water, and the safety of the waterways when chemicals are bubbling up in your own creek. It doesn’t make any sense.”
Vance was asked by a reporter if he thought the water in East Palestine was safe to drink.
“No, I think that if I was living here, I would drink the bottled water for now. Better safe than sorry, especially since it’s being provided for free. That’s the guidance I would give,” Vance said. “And again, residents are going to make their own decisions on this, but my honest, personal advice is: I’d be drinking the bottled water right now.”
Rep. Troy Nehls (R–Texas) was in East Palestine the same day and suggested that Vance was “irresponsible” for encouraging residents to drink bottled water.
“I don’t see how that would help the situation,” said Nehls, who was in East Palestine because he is chair of the House Subcommittee on Railroads. “I almost would say that’s irresponsible. I mean, you have access to bottled water… that’s fine. But the point is, is if the water is safe through the water treatment facility, why wouldn’t you encourage your residents to use that water?
“The water within this municipality is safe to drink. They have a water treatment facility,” Nehls added. “As a matter of fact, I just went to a local restaurant here and I said, ‘put some tap water in here,’ and I drank it. The water is safe to drink.”
EPA Administrator Michael Regan met with officials and talked to residents in East Palestine on Feb. 16.
He reiterated that the air and water are safe, and that “robust” air quality testing and around-the-clock monitoring have indicated there are no problems.
A reporter asked Regan if he would feel comfortable living in East Palestine. Regan responded by saying he would if testing showed his home was safe.
“As a father, I trust the science, I trust the methodology that the state is using,” Regan said
“I would encourage every family in this community to reach out to the state or EPA to get their home air quality tested and their water tested,” Regan added. “We have the resources to do it, we want to do it and we want people to feel secure and safe in their homes.”
Upon hearing of Regan’s claims, Vance responded with a challenge.
“It reminds me of that scene in Erin Brockovich,” Vance said. “If the EPA administrator wants to stand here and tell people the tap water is safe, by all means, he should be willing to drink it.”
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