Evacuation order lifted in East Palestine following train derailment

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East Palestine residents are able to return home beginning Wednesday evening after village officials announced that the evacuation order had been lifted.

All residents returning home must following Columbiana County EMA’s safe re-entry plan, found on their website, that asks them to avoid the immediate area surrounding the railway.

Some roads around the village remain closed.

“With the full support of Governor DeWine, I am happy to announce the evacuation zone has been lifted,” East Palestine Fire Chief Keith Drabick said during Wednesday evening’s press conference.

Nearly half of the village residents have been out of their homes since Friday night when a Norfolk Southern trail derailed around 9 p.m. while traveling through the village. That train was carrying vinyl chloride and a number of other chemicals.

Crews completed a controlled chemical release on Monday, releasing chemicals from the rail cars because they feared the chemicals would expand and would result in an explosion and send deadly shrapnel up to a mile.

But residents want to know if it’s safe to return home. Officials with the US EPA said they’ve been monitoring the air and water over the previous 24 hours and levels are coming back normal.

“All of the readings we’ve been recording in the community have been at normal concentrations, normal backgrounds, which you find in almost any community,” James Justice with the US EPA said, and that’s “what led to the fire chief lifting the evacuations today.”

There will be ongoing air monitoring in the area, but for those who would like air quality readings to be conducted within their homes, Norfolk Southern Railroad has hired an independent contractor to work with local law enforcement, the U.S. EPA, and state officials to take air quality samples and provide results at no charge to residents.

Free testing of water from private wells in the impacted area will also be offered by the railroad. In the interim, those with private water wells are encouraged to use bottled water, which can be supplied by Norfolk Southern. Those who remain uncomfortable returning home at this time can also request assistance with hotel expenses from the railroad.