Holcomb orders inspection of toxic material from Ohio

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Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (IL file photo)

Gov. Eric Holcomb said Thursday he is ordering third-party testing of hazardous materials being transported from the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment to a landfill in Putnam County.

The state is contracting with Minnesota-based Pace Labs, which has a location in Indianapolis, to test for “dangerous levels of dioxins” in the toxic materials.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Monday  some of the contaminated chemicals from the site would be shipped to a landfill in Roachdale, which is operated by Indianapolis-basted Heritage Environmental Services.

Other materials from the site were being shipped to an incinerator in Grafton, Ohio.

On Tuesday, the governor said he objected to the decision and expressed frustration with finding out about the move through a press conference.

In a statement Thursday, Holcomb said sampling of the toxic material would begin Friday.

“All of us can agree that we should do everything within our control to provide assurance to our communities,” said Holcomb. “This testing is the next necessary step. Since making this decision, we have informed the EPA and the site operator urging them to coordinate closely with this 3rd party laboratory to carry out this important testing.”

The governor’s order comes on the same day the EPA announced it would require railroad operator Norfolk Southern to test the materials for dioxins.

“If dioxins are found at a level that poses any unacceptable risk to human health and the environment, EPA will direct the immediate cleanup of the area as needed,” the agency said in a news release. “In addition, EPA will require Norfolk Southern to conduct a background study to compare any dioxin levels around East Palestine to dioxin levels in other areas not impacted by the train derailment.”

The train derailment occurred Feb. 3 in the Ohio city, located near the Pennsylvania border.

In a March 1 update on the EPA’s website, the agency said it has conducted 578 home reentry screenings and is continuing air monitoring, adding there have been “no exceedances for residential air quality standards, and outdoor air quality remains normal.”

A public meeting with federal, state and local officials was scheduled for Thursday night, with representatives from Norfolk Southern expected to attend.

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