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One Year After East Palestine Train Derailment, the Shapiro Administration Remains Focused on Supporting Local Communities & First Responders

02/05/2024


Harrisburg, PA – For the last year, following Norfolk Southern's train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, Governor Josh Shapiro has kept his promise to hold Norfolk Southern accountable, ensure Pennsylvanians have the resources needed to recover and rebuild, and protect the public health and safety of Pennsylvanians in Beaver and Lawrence counties. The Shapiro Administration has been engaged with local communities and first responders continuously for the last year – and will continue to work with them as long as is necessary.

"Over the last year, my Administration has made clear that we are focused on delivering the help our communities need, protecting the health and safety of Pennsylvanians, and holding Norfolk Southern accountable," said Governor Josh Shapiro. "We organized independent water and soil sampling, and we put the results of that testing online so that our residents could see them for themselves; we already delivered more than $1.4 million for first responders to ensure they could afford new equipment after their old equipment was contaminated from the derailment; and we ensured families were made whole for their losses. My Administration will continue to work with our federal and local partners to support the people impacted by the derailment for as long as it is needed."
 
The Shapiro Administration was on the ground immediately following the derailment – Governor Shapiro, in concert with local emergency management officials, directed PEMA and PSP to make sure every single Pennsylvanian in the evacuation area was personally contacted and safely evacuated if they chose to do so, and was eventually able to safely return to their homes. PEMA also worked with local officials to gauge needed resources following the derailment and launched a train derailment dashboard in coordination with other state agencies to better inform concerned residents in Pennsylvania.

"While a year has passed since the train derailment, the Shapiro Administration remains committed to providing community assistance and answering any questions as the cleanup work continues," said PEMA Director Randy Padfield. "Our understanding of the impacts from this derailment continues to grow and we remain committed to the long-term recovery efforts of the affected communities."

At Governor Shapiro's direction, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), through an independent contractor, and Department of Agriculture (PDA) continue to conduct precautionary environmental testing to ensure the health and safety of residents, with results posted publicly on DEP's website. To date, samples have been taken at 85 individual private potable water sources, 97 surface soil locations, 18 surface water locations, and 14 crop locations within the Commonwealth totaling hundreds of samples. Pennsylvania agencies have not found any long-term contamination in Western PA related to the derailment in East Palestine.

Over the last year, DEP's independent contractor continued DEP's sampling of public water supplies, private water wells, surface water, and soil. The contractor also evaluated and verified DEP's data, compared data to Pennsylvania's environmental standards, and made recommendations for additional sampling. DEP, and its contractor, have not identified any impacts related to the train derailment to date. Read the full report here.

"The East Palestine Train Derailment was a tragic incident that demanded immediate action for the health and safety of all impacted," said DEP Interim Acting Secretary Jessica Shirley. "From the beginning, DEP's dedicated team worked tirelessly to develop a sharp plan of action for testing that ensured residents had clean water to drink and uncontaminated soil surrounding them. Under the leadership of the Shapiro Administration, our staff also worked diligently to calm fears by being available over the phone and in person to address any questions residents had. Though no contamination was found in our state, we remain committed to addressing concerns and upholding Pennsylvanians' right to clean air, pure water, and the preservation of natural resources, and it's our mission to see that through for generations to come."

PDA veterinarians engaged with those who may be affected by the incident, including local farmers, and continue to keep a close watch on reports from area private veterinarians. Early in September 2023, staff at the Pennsylvania Veterinary Laboratory performed an autopsy on a 3.5 year-old Jersey cow from a herd near the Norfolk Southern East Palestine, OH train derailment. The autopsy was at the owner's request. There was no evidence to suggest a link to the derailment. Pennsylvania farmers and producers who have questions or concerns can contact the PDA hotline at 855-777-6735.
 
"For the past year, the Shapiro Administration and the Department of Agriculture have supported the communities in Beaver and Lawrence Counties affected by the train derailment through science and civics. Our teams worked tirelessly to aid those in need, to support businesses, and to ensure that our lands, our plants, our animals, and our people were safe, so that our agriculturalists could continue to serve their neighbors without stigma or fear of contamination," said Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. "One year later, our farming community continues to prove both its resiliency in the face of disaster, and its unity in the support of our communities and one another."
 
The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) established a health resource network to connect Pennsylvania residents directly with local providers, and continues to work with local health care providers in Beaver and Lawrence counties to meet any long-term needs. Residents can call 877-PA-HEALTH to reach the health resource network. The Shapiro Administration also stood up a Health Resource Center in Darlington Township for residents of Lawrence and Beaver counties who had health concerns – the center was open for more than a month in 2023 and helped nearly 600 people with information about independent soil and water quality testing through DEP, medical evaluations, emergency behavioral health evaluations, and general public health information. The center also had staff to help answer questions about pet safety, farm animal safety, and best farm practices by experts from the Department of Agriculture.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), in partnership with DOH, conducted an Assessment of Chemical Exposure (ACE) investigation to assess the health impacts of the derailment. The investigation included staff going door-to-door to meet with residents, residents taking the ACE community survey at the Health Resource Center, and residents receiving a link to the survey and taking it on their own time. An additional ACE investigation occurred to assess the health impacts on first responders. Reports from the initial ACE surveys of residents and first responders are available online.

"The Department of Health will continue working to ensure that healthcare providers have the resources they need to address the environmental health concerns of residents in relation to the train derailment," said Acting Secretary of Health Dr. Debra Bogen. "We will be conducting follow-up Assessment of Chemical Exposure (ACE) surveys to assess any ongoing health impacts of the train derailment on community residents and first responders involved in the incident. Together with our sister agencies, the Department will continue to monitor community needs and respond as needed." 

Last year, Governor Shapiro directed Norfolk Southern to distribute $1 million to communities in Western Pennsylvania to assist with community relief. The funding was a key part of the multi-million dollar commitment Governor Shapiro secured from Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw. Communities in Western Pennsylvania have put the funding to work, helping first responders, supporting the environment, and supporting local municipalities.

In addition to securing critical funding for Darlington Township and Lawrence County, Governor Shapiro has led the way to ensure that Pennsylvanians are receiving reimbursements for losses due to the derailment. At Governor Shapiro's request, Norfolk Southern has repaid Western PA fire departments and first responders over $1.4 million in reimbursements for equipment losses incurred as a result of the train derailment. Fire companies from Beaver, Lawrence, and Washington Counties responded to the derailment and the controlled vent and burn – and Governor Shapiro is working to ensure they receive any and all funding they need. 

At Governor Shapiro's request, Norfolk Southern will also cover personnel costs for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), PA Department of Health (DOH) services including the Health Resource Center (HRC), and the PA Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) work in Western PA, including independent testing and air monitoring. This ensures all residents affected are able to remain in their homes and in a safe environment.

The Shapiro Administration will continue to work with local, state, and federal partners to ensure Pennsylvanians impacted by the derailment can continue to recover and rebuild.

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