Objections Arise to Indiana Landfill Taking Hazardous Waste from East Palestine Derailment

Aerial photo of East Palestine derailment site taken 02-24-23. Twelve rail cars remain on site. (Courtesy Office of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine)

(The Center Square) – Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said Tuesday he strongly disagrees with a Biden Administration decision to ship some of the hazardous material left over from the Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, to an Indiana landfill.

Holcomb, a Republican, said in a statement he learned about U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan’s decision to ship that waste to a facility operated by Heritage Environmental Services in Roachdale, about 40 miles west of Indianapolis.

“The materials should go to the nearest facilities, not moved from the far eastern side of Ohio to the far western side of Indiana,” the governor said in a statement. “I have made a request to speak to the administrator to discuss this matter. I want to know exactly what precautions will be taken in the transport and disposition of the materials.”

In a press conference Monday, EPA Region Five Administrator Debra Shore announced the decision to ship waste to the Heritage landfill. She said it was necessary because facilities closer to the disaster site did not have the space to handle all of the waste.

Shore added the EPA and the U.S. Department of Transportation have regulations to oversee the transportation of hazardous materials to the Roachdale landfill. Norfolk Southern also must abide by all federal, state and local requirements while transporting the material.

“EPA has decades of experience dealing with hazardous waste, both from cleaning up contaminated sites to regulating the landfills where it’s disposed of,” Roach said. “As I’ve said previously, we know it’s far better to have it safely stored in a properly constructed and monitored disposal facility than to remain here any longer than is necessary.”

Heritage’s website describes the Roachdale landfill as a “first of it’s (sic) kind” facility certified 39 years ago to handle hazardous waste. It’s also “geographically isolated” and not “your typical municipal solid waste landfill.”

Shore, on Monday, said the EPA met its promise to notify states before approving any shipments. However, Holcomb, in his statement, decried a “lack of communication” from Washington with him and other Indiana leaders about the decision.

The 150-car derailment occurred in East Palestine, a town just across the Ohio state line from Pennsylvania, late on Feb. 3. Hazardous material, including vinyl chloride, was identified in 20 cars, according to the EPA.

— Steve Bittenbender

Railfanning Review Podcast

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