Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg intends to travel to East Palestine, Ohio, the location of the fiery trail crash and subsequent spill of deadly chemicals “when the time is right.”
Buttigieg, who has faced criticism for his slow responses to a number of transportation-related incidents over the past few months, including the chaos of cancelled and delayed flights over the 2022 Christmas holiday and the trail derailment that shook East Palestine, did not provide reporters with a specific date for his visit to the region.
According to CNN, he added, “I am really interested in getting to know the people of East Palestine, hearing from them about how it has affected them and speaking with them about the actions that we are taking.”
He stated that he will visit at some point, although he did not specify when.
“But I do intend to travel to East Palestine at the appropriate moment. I don’t currently have a date for you,” he said.
Nearly three weeks have passed since a train carrying hazardous materials, including vinyl chloride, derailed along the Ohio-Pennsylvania line. Reports state that the train actually broke down during its journey before the tragic derailment.
Employees claim that before the train reached East Palestine, they were concerned about “what they perceived to be the train’s excessive weight and length — 151 cars, 9,300 feet long, 18,000 tons — which contributed to both the first malfunction and the crash,” according to a CBS News report.
The dangerous substances were “controlled released” three days later, according to the authorities. For days, locals were forced to leave their homes.
At the time, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine declared, “The vinyl chloride contents of five train cars are currently unstable and could eventually explode, producing devastating dispersal of shrapnel and toxic gases.”
He stated on February 6 that “Norfolk Southern Railroad is contemplating a controlled discharge of the vinyl chloride at approximately 3:30 p.m. today to alleviate the potential of unrestrained shrapnel from an explosion.”
Residents are still concerned about the area’s air and water quality weeks later, despite President Biden’s decision to travel to Ukraine this week.
According to CNN, East Palestine residents and officials will meet with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan on Tuesday.
Buttigieg stated that “our folks were on the ground from the first hours” while stating that he is “planning to go” to the region in an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America.
“I do want to emphasize that the NTSB needs to have the ability to work independently,” he said. “But when I go, the emphasis will be on doing something.”
Buttigieg stated that the purpose of his trip to East Palestine would be to take “action” to improve “rail safety” and “ensure that such things don’t happen in the future.”