|Toxic waste from the site of an Ohio train derailment was |
sent by truck to Romulus and Van Buren Township for disposal.
While some of the toxic soil and chemicals from the massive train accident in Ohio have already been accepted at the deep-well injection disposal in Romulus and at a disposal site in Van Buren Township, transport of the waste material has been halted due, in part, to strong protests from area officials. Norfolk-Southern Railway managers made the decision to send the chemicals and toxic soil from the site of the East Palestine, Ohio derailment by truck into sites owned by Republic Waste Services in both Romulus and Van Buren Township.Officials confirmed that the transport was authorized prior to federal Environmental Protection Agency representatives taking control of the situation. No specific information regarding the truck routes through neighboring communities was provided.
The derailment Feb. 3 in Ohio included 11 freight cars containing hazardous materials. Residents near the wreckage site were evacuated as the threat of an explosion or serious health risks were made public. Five cars containing toxic vinyl chloride were burned by officials in an attempt to prevent an explosion, according to reports from the site, while others were sent to the Michigan disposal sites.
Romulus Mayor Robert McCraight said officials from the city would continue to work with state and national officials to prevent the delivery of any more of the toxic waste to the Romulus deep well injection site. He said that his administration was “using all resources available to them to halt this process.”
McCraight added that Romulus officials and residents have “been opposed to the deep injection well since the 90s. The shipments to our community have been halted and we will continue to work with our elected officials at all levels to do whatever we can to protect our residents.”
Romulus Director of Community Safety and Development Kevin Krause was also critical of the decision to bring the waste into the community.
“The City of Romulus has been fundamentally opposed to the injection well since its inception, EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and EGLE (Environment, Great Lakes and Energy) preempt the city from the permitting process, leaving the city no choice but to accept the permitting and site within our boundaries.
“As recent as 2020 during the Republic purchase of the well, the City of Romulus went to Lansing and EGLE to address long-standing concerns about the site and its operations. The residents' safety is our number one priority, and we believe that this hazardous material is an Ohio issue and should stay an Ohio issue.” Krause said in a prepared statement.
Krause questioned the safety of transporting the waste more than 225 miles and almost 3.5 hours to reach Michigan.
Krause said that Romulus officials would continue to work with Wayne County, state, and federal representatives to call for a “coordinated disposal process that keeps this waste out of Romulus and out of Michigan.”
The city outrage was equaled by Wayne County Executive Warren Evans who said that he and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's office were kept in the dark before learning about the disposal plans “from the grapevine.”
“It sounds in all intents and purposes that we were sandbagged. I don't know how you do that without contacting local officials so that we can number one, know how to respond to our communities, and two, to give advice about what routes to take and those sort of things,” Evans said during a press conference last Friday.
He added that Whitmer's office also received sketchy and last-minute information about the disposal and that her staff was also attempting to get more information.
Substances moved to Michigan include cancer-causing vinyl chloride, said U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Ann Arbor, during the press conference.
“They told us there were five trucks that came today from Ohio that they have 99 percent water and 1 percent vinyl chloride. And that going forward all of it is on pause and another site is likely to be found,” she said. “Our job from the governor on down, is to ensure that everyone is safe and that no one ever again blindsides everybody the way they did on the delivery of this material,” Dingell added.
Evans said he believed the quick reaction from local elected officials played a part in the stoppage of the hazardous transport.
“What I do know is that some of this material is already at the landfill. I'm understanding from the EPA that some of that transport will be shut down immediately and they are going to make arrangements for some of that material to go other places,” Evans said.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine's office released a statement Friday noting that 4,832 cubic yards of soil had already been excavated from the ground and moved by dump trucks to Michigan disposal sites.
Federal EPA officials assumed management of the site and disposal Friday, and immediately halted the shipments into Michigan. Norfolk Southern has been ordered by the federal agency to fund the entire cleanup and chemical release.