The Environmental Protection Agency said Friday it was notifying the states that they cannot block shipments of hazardous waste from the February 3 rail disaster in East Palestine, Ohio.
Some 38 cars on that Norfolk Southern-operated train derailed, sparking a fire and a miles-wide toxic chemical spill.
According to a lawsuit by Ohio’s Attorney General against Norfolk Southern, over one million gallons of hazardous chemicals were released and “adversely affected the health and wellbeing of Ohio residents and contaminated Ohio’s natural resources.”
On February 21 the EPA ordered Norfolk Southern to clean the soil and water that was contaminated by the chemical spill.
The EPA says that to date, Norfolk Southern has excavated nearly half of all the contaminated soil from the railroad tracks and has transported 6.8 million gallons of liquid waste and 5,400 tons of solid waste. The agency estimates it will take another three months to complete the cleanup.
The EPA’s advisory to other states comes after Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt said this week he had blocked a shipment of hazardous waste from the Ohio site to a facility in the state.
On Friday EPA Administrator Michael Regan said that “any attempts to impede interstate shipments of hazardous waste threatens the integrity of the system.” He further said the Oklahoma site has a permit to receive the waste.
Regan added that he would hold Norfolk Southern fully accountable and demanded it seek to enforce its contracts to dispose of contaminated materials from the derailment.
In testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last week, Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw said his company is committed to cleaning the site. He’s scheduled to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee next week.