Residents near the Ohio train derailment still can't return home, officials say
Residents from the Ohio village of East Palestine — close to where a train derailed on Friday — say they're nervous about returning home, even after an emergency evacuation order is lifted. Some even said they may never return.
Columbiana County Emergency Management Agency Director Peggy Clark said in a news conference Tuesday night that there is still no timeline for when residents will be allowed back in their homes.
"We've been working on that since Friday night," Clark told reporters. "We are working as hard as we can. But public safety is our utmost importance, okay? They're out there doing all the air sampling tonight. We expect them to be reviewing that data overnight. And we'll see what the data comes back at. I can't speculate what the data's going to say, they have to do their testing."
Jami Cozza told CBS News that she was worried that her family won't be able to live in East Palestine any more for their own safety.
"I think I owe that to my daughter," she said. "No matter how much I want to stay."
For residents of East Palestine that do want to return, they were still waiting for the all-clear from officials, as contractors continued to release toxic chemicals from the crash site on Tuesday.
"I want nothing more than to get my residents back home," East Palestine Fire Chief Keith Drabick said.
Evacuation orders were issued Sunday ahead of a possible explosion where a train of about 50 cars, including 10 carrying hazardous materials, derailed near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. Officials urged those in neighboring Beaver County, Pennsylvania, to stay indoors as a precaution.
"We've been focusing largely on the air quality within that one-mile evacuation zone," Environmental Protection Agency official James Justice said Tuesday night. "We've been doing that throughout the day, and throughout the night, and we're going to process that data and give our recommendation to the incident commander in the morning."
Justice added that the EPA investigators had so far been seeing "very few detections," of dangerous chemical fumes.
"And the detections we have been seeing for the chemicals we're monitoring for have been very low," Justice said.
As of Tuesday night, several cars have been cleared from the wreckage, and teams are continuing to clear the site. Four of the cars have been cleared, and they were working to get the fifth car clear, said Scott Deutsch of Norfolk Southern. Then, those cars will be inspected by the National Transportation Safety Board before being cut up and removed.
"We also will have those cars on site into at least the middle of next week, because they're on a hold from NTSB for their review...NTSB and FRA (Federal Railroad Administration)," Deutch said. "After that, we will continue with all our remediation activities at the site, and obviously, opening the track back up."
Federal investigators said a mechanical issue with a rail car axle caused the derailment.
— Roxana Saberi contributed to this report.
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