Ohio Toxic Train Derailment: What's Happened So Far

The derailment, which occurred earlier this month in East Palestine, Ohio, involved multiple Norfolk Southern-operated cars carrying hazardous chemicals.

An overhead view of the Ohio train derailment

Image via Getty/NTSB/Handout/Xinhua

An overhead view of the Ohio train derailment

On Feb. 3 of this year, multiple cars carrying hazardous chemicals as part of a train operated by Norfolk Southern were confirmed to have derailed in the East Palestine area of Ohio.

Developments surrounding the troublingly toxic event have continued to spill out in the weeks since, with updates from the scene of the crash ranging from the frustratingly vague to the expectedly opportunistic. At multiple points throughout the increasingly nationwide coverage, it’s also been noted how the derailment mirrors pivotal sequences in Noah Baumbach’s recent Netflix film White Noise, itself an adaptation of the Don DeLillo novel of the same name.

All of this has built toward a larger discussion on how the real-world impacts of an aggressively capitalistic society always fall atop the already burdened backs of everyday people, all while those with more than enough money to their name count up new dollars.

Meanwhile, as is unfortunately often the case with news of this magnitude, a faction of people have used this frightening-enough-on-its-own story to complicate matters even more by spreading misleading information later pointed out as false. (Consider this another reminder to always stay diligent when it comes to social media-made claims and only rely on strong sources for confirmation.)

As we near one month since word first broke of the derailment, we take a look at what’s happened so far in response to the crash, both at the local and federal level. Read more below. 

What happened?

Screenshot of the site of a derailed freight train in East Palestine

How has the spill impacted the environment and residents?

Toxic chemicals float on the surface of Leslie Run creek in East Palestine, Ohio

How has Norfolk Southern responded?

A train derails in Michigan with several cars veering off track in Van Buren Township

On Feb. 16, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine asked for more help at the federal level. The Biden-Harris administration confirmed one day after the formal request that both the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would both be sending a team of experts to the scene.

Simultaneously, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said it would be offering its own assistance in the form of involvement from a Senior Response Official and a Regional Incident Management Assistance Team.

These agencies, respectively, join the aforementioned EPA and NTSB at the federal response level.

In comments to reporters on Feb. 24, President Biden was asked whether he planned to visit East Palestine. Though there were no such plans in place at the time, Biden pushed back against the assertion some have put forth regarding his administration’s response to the crash.

“The idea that we’re not engaged is just simply not—not there,” Biden said, adding that the administration is “doing all we can.”

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