News and HeadlinesIndianapolis Local NewsPutnam County

Actions

Gov. Holcomb says East Palestine waste test results should be available next week

Train Derailment Ohio-Railroad Safety
Posted at 5:15 PM, Mar 02, 2023

INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Eric Holcomb is directing his administration to "immediately" conduct testing of the hazardous materials being brought to a Putnam County landfill from East Palestine, Ohio.

Heritage Environmental Services says it started receiving truckloads on Wednesday. In total, 2,000 tons of toxic waste are expected to arrive in Indiana.

"It was extremely disappointing to learn through a press conference held on Monday, Feb. 27, 2023, confirming that the EPA had chosen Indiana as a location to deposit and remediate the waste from East Palestine, Ohio. This was made after our administration directly conveyed that the materials should go to the nearest facilities, not moved from the far eastern side of Ohio to the far western side of Indiana," Holcomb said in a statement Thursday.

On Friday, Holcomb released a new statement saying detailed results on the waste already in Indiana should be available "early next week." Samples are scheduled to be taken on Saturday, with third party testing beginning the same day.

"We will share any results with the public in an effort to be open and transparent as soon as they become available," Holcomb's statement said. "I do want to commend the result of strong and constructive collaboration of elected leaders at the local, state and federal level. The advice and communication across the board was critical in reaching this result to provide assurances to our communities."

Additionally, Holcomb says any further material that comes to Indiana will be tested before it arrives to make sure there are no harmful dioxins.

You can read his full Friday statement below.

“Since yesterday when I directed the third-party testing of any material arriving from the East Palestine train spill, the EPA today provided us a written commitment that any further material scheduled for shipment to Indiana from the East Palestine train spill site will undergo testing to confirm there are no harmful levels of dioxins before heading to Indiana. This is the right decision for the EPA to take this important step.

As for the materials that are already enroute prior to the EPA announcement, our teams have been working with the third-party laboratory to expedite the testing of those truck loads which should bear detailed results sometime early next week. Samples are now scheduled to be taken early tomorrow morning, Saturday, March 4, with testing to begin that same day at the Pace Laboratory. The site operator is supportive of this testing and has been cooperative in helping us carry this out. We will share any results with the public in an effort to be open and transparent as soon as they become available.    

I do want to commend the result of strong and constructive collaboration of elected leaders at the local, state and federal level. The advice and communication across the board was critical in reaching this result to provide assurances to our communities. We will continue to provide further updates, as necessary."
Gov. Eric Holcomb on March 4, 2023

Holcomb says he spoke to the EPA administrator on Feb. 28 via phone.

Earlier this week Heritage Environmental Services, the company that owns the landfill, held a town hall attended by hundreds of residents.

The company says they offered to take the chemicals for disposal from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because of their ability to handle the waste.

Heritage Environmental said at the town hall that the soil contains trace amounts of some contaminants, including vinyl chloride, a colorless gas, and butyl acrylate, which is used in paint and caulk. According to the National Cancer Institute, vinyl chloride is used to make PVC and as a combustion product in tobacco smoke.

The landfill has a Roachdale address, but is a few miles outside of town.

You can read Holcomb's full Thursday statement below.

“Effective immediately, I have directed our administration to contract with a nationally recognized laboratory to begin rigorous 3rd party testing for dangerous levels of dioxins on the material being transported to the Roachdale facility from the East Palestine train spill.

As I indicated in anearlier statement [lnks.gd], it was extremely disappointing to learn through a press conference held on Monday, Feb. 27, 2023, confirming that the EPA had chosen Indiana as a location to deposit and remediate the waste from East Palestine, Ohio. This was made after our administration directly conveyed that the materials should go to the nearest facilities, not moved from the far eastern side of Ohio to the far western side of Indiana. As you can expect, I expressed as much to the EPA administrator when we spoke on the phone Tuesday, Feb. 28.

All of us can agree that we should do everything within our control to provide assurance to our communities. 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. Sampling is scheduled to begin tomorrow, Friday, March 3."

On Tuesday, the Putnam County Health Department released a statement saying it was "surprised" by the decision. You can read their full statement below.

"Like many Putnam County residents, we were surprised by the decision of Norfolk Southern to send hazardous materials from the East Palestine train derailment to the Heritage Environmental Services landfill at Roachdale, Indiana. As we learn more about this process and the chemicals involved, we will share that with residents.

We will continue to monitor the situation and work with our colleagues at the Environmental Protection Agency, Indiana Department of Environmental Management, and Heritage Environmental Services. The Putnam County Health Department will perform well water testing around the Heritage Environmental site. We will make those results available once we receive them. We are thankful that if these materials are brought to Indiana, they will be in the hands of the H.E.S. professionals who are regulated through the Indiana Department of Environmental Management."
Putnam Co Health Department

On Wednesday, Senator Mike Braun and Congressman Jim Baird sent a letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan asking for answers about why the materials are coming to Indiana.

"I think there is a lot we need to find out," Senator Braun told WRTV's Rachael Wilkerson.

"Every day when we receive material in, we will open up section into landfill. We will dump that material in. We compact it and then at the end of the day, we bring clean soil in and cover it every day so it's never exposed to the environment," said Facility Manager Eric Chris.

The company assures residents in the small town of Roachdale that they have strict federal guidelines in place and are capable to handle the loads.

Heritage Environmental Services tells WRTV it reached out to the EPA and signed a contract to receive this waste.

WRTV filed a public records request to find out the length of the contract, how much money the company is making and what testing was done before it was shipped.

"I don't think there has been any communication that [the EPA] have reached out to us. We will be questioning them. It's just a question of when and getting all of our ducks in a row to find out how did this take place," said Senator Braun.

There has been controversy in neighboring states regarding disposal of the toxic waste.

Senator Braun points out that some of it was supposed to be sent to Michigan, but state officials halted those shipments. It's something he says wasn't able to happen here.

He along with residents are frustrated by the alleged lack of communication from the EPA and Indiana officials.

READ MORE: Putnam Co. landfill owners say they offered to take hazardous waste from Ohio train derailment

The Putnam County Health Department encourages those with concerns to reach out to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the EPA.