EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WKBN) — Gov. Mike DeWine and First Lady Fran DeWine were out Friday visiting with several state agencies in East Palestine The focus? Getting updates on soil remediation, water monitoring and community needs.
The governor and first lady stopped by East Palestine’s library to sit in on a local community meeting discussing the aftermath of last February’s train derailment and the road ahead.
This visit comes after the EPA released its report to the White House last week detailing the response efforts since Day 1. The report is part of an executive order “ensuring the people of East Palestine are protected now and in the future.”
Those joining the governor on Friday included members from the Ohio EPA, Department of Development, Department of Health and the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.
“What happens in the long run? Particularly in the long run from a medical point of view,” DeWine said. “That’s a very legitimate concern.”
DeWine and his cabinet members heard that progress is continuing on the cleanup, and that fish and other wildlife have been returning to streams running through the community. But he also accepts there will be concerns and doubts.
“When experts come in and do studies or do testing … the people in the community need to be able to see exactly what they’re doing, and explain in terms that the lay-person, like me, can understand,” DeWine said.
Since the disaster, the EPA has collected more than 100 million air monitoring data points and thousands of air, water and soil samples in and around the community. This data collection is ongoing.
“This is human nature, and our job is to be as transparent as we can,” DeWine said.
The governor said one way to accomplish that is to allow residents to follow the work firsthand.
“One of the people in the meeting said it was great to go out and see what you all are doing in the creek,” DeWine said. “You showed us exactly what you’re doing.”
The head of Ohio EPA, director Anne Vogel, said the effort makes a big difference.
“We’re generating data to make sure that people are safe,” Vogel said.
DeWine and his wife also visited with members of the student science club at the high school to see how they are using the cleanup process as part of their studies, saying the state will continue working with the community for as long as needed.
The governor also announced he’ll be sending $150,000 from his Office of Appalachia funds to help the village cover the costs of a pair of new dump trucks to replace existing ones, as well as a drone.