Thursday, March 9, 2023

County demands improved rail safety, communication

Wayne County Commission Chair Alisha Bell and her fellow commissioners are calling on federal officials to enact rail safety and improve communication with local officials following the recent  train derailments in Ohio.

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans' office received information that Norfolk Southern was transporting hazardous waste resulting from the East Palenstine Ohio derailment for disposal in both Romulus and Van Buren Township in Wayne County after the waste had already arrived at the sites.

The administration learned that Republic Services had been authorized by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, along with the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA), to receive diluted toxic waste in both liquid and solid forms at its Romulus Injection Well Facility. Two days earlier, on Feb. 22, Republic Services had been authorized to receive solid toxic waste at the Van Buren Township facility. 

 Following criticism of the lack of communication on the process, the EPA halted shipments of toxic waste to the Wayne County sites  Friday, Feb. 24.

“I am pleased that toxic waste from the derailment has been halted from coming into our county, but more must be done to prevent something like this from ever happening again,” Bell said. “As a county commission, we will do everything in our power to make sure safety measures are in place to protect our residents.”

  “It is disappointing that there was no knowledge of this happening,” said Commissioner Al Haidous (D-Wayne), whose District 11 communities include Romulus and Van Buren Township.

“This is a safety issue for Wayne County residents and one that cannot be compromised by any means,” Haidous said.

“We were extremely disappointed that plans had been made and carried out,” Bell said. “Moving forward, we will ask for a review of safety and notification measures at Republic's Van Buren and Romulus facilities and any other Wayne County landfill operations.”

Bell also noted that federal officials must enact new safety rules for trains carrying toxic materials.

“This isn't a political issue, it's a public safety issue,” she said. 

An inquiry is expected to be made involving the EPA, Department of Transportation, state of Ohio and all others involved in derailment determining how waste disposal will be handled, according to a prepared statement from the entire board of commissioners.