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A year after fiery train derailment, Biden to visit East Palestine

The president will make his first visit to the Ohio city as long-term environmental concerns linger from last year's derailment.
A year after fiery train derailment, Biden to visit East Palestine
Posted at 7:01 AM, Jan 31, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-31 10:04:42-05

As the one-year anniversary of the Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, approaches, a White House official told Scripps News that President Biden plans to visit the town in February. 

The White House did not say when exactly the president would visit East Palestine. The administration said he will meet with residents impacted by the Feb. 3, 2023, derailment that forced most residents to evacuate for several days. 

The subject of a presidential visit to East Palestine came with a lot of political fodder. Many Republicans and some Democrats criticized President Biden for not visiting the town in the immediate aftermath of the derailment. Among them was former President Donald Trump, who is the Republican front-runner in this year's presidential election. Trump visited the town of about 5,000 residents last year. 

The administration defended its stance, saying it was providing East Palestine with all of the resources it needed to clean up from the derailment. The White House also dispatched numerous deputies, including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Environmental Protection Agency head Michael S. Regan. 

"We are committed to supporting the people of East Palestine every step of the way, and we are going to be on the ground helping them as long as it's needed," Karine Jean-Pierre, White House press secretary, said last year when asked about a presidential visit.

SEE MORE: White House orders continued support for East Palestine derailment

There were no direct fatalities from the derailment, but despite assurances from officials, there are lingering concerns over the long-term impacts of vinyl chloride and other chemicals that were released into the atmosphere.

According to the EPA, vinyl chloride is highly flammable and is mostly used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic and vinyl products. Short-term exposure to the chemical can cause dizziness, drowsiness and headaches. Long-term exposure can result in liver damage and cancer concerns, the EPA said.

An interim report by the National Transportation Safety Board indicated that a hotbox detector found the temperature of one of the train's wheel bearings was 253 degrees above the ambient temperature. Anything above 200 degrees is considered critical. 


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