Ohio Train Disaster A Vivid Case of Corporate Capture of the EPA
The EPA's claim that water is "safe" to drink was based on lab tests done by the rail company that caused the disaster. The EPA has still not tested independently.
As I wrote in my recent Guardian column, one of the most disturbing elements of the Ohio train derailment is the EPA’s feeble response. The agency charged with protecting public safety is falling down during a critical moment.
The EPA Chief Michael Regan seems more focused on helping Norfolk Southern — the railway that caused the disaster — manage the public relations fallout of the derailment than on its mission to protect the public from environmental harm. Journalist Chris D’Angelo in an excellent article demonstrates the testing relied on by the Ohio "authorities" and the EPA to declare the water “safe” in East Palestine was funded by the railway company that caused the disaster and was not conducted independently. The EPA still has not done its own testing of the water. In my opinion, this is scientific and political malpractice and an example of corporate capture of a critical public function of our government.
In the meantime, thousands of people face the risk of cancers and premature death because of Norfolk Southern's reckless misconduct including the deliberate detonation of cancer-causing chemicals three days after the accident. The detonation caused a mushroom cloud of poison that likely has spread hundreds of miles, but it was a cheap disposal method that got the rail line opened sooner.
As for the safety of the water, Norfolk only tested in five spots in the town of East Palestine which is suspicious. There should be hundreds of samples taken on a daily basis, not just in East Palestine but in surrounding communities also impacted by the poison mushroom cloud. And the tests must be for all the chemicals burned off, including the new compounds created by the detonation such as the deadly gas phosgene which was banned by the Geneva Convention after World War I. Journalist D'Angelo also documented how the sampling methods used by the company also violated various scientific and EPA protocols. One independent expert called the sampling "sloppy" and "amateur". Further, neither the Ohio EPA nor the national EPA have published any water sampling results from East Palestine for several days, suggesting there is no ongoing water monitoring.
This is all deeply disturbing. There are a lot of questions, but one is particularly critical: why has the EPA not done its own testing and instead relied for its data on the polluter it is supposed to regulate? And how could Mr. Regan have claimed drinking water in the area was safe when his agency did not have a valid and independent scientific basis for that conclusion? Is his mission more to protect public safety, or to run cover for the railway company that caused this ecological and health calamity?
These questions need answers.
When the orange stain hired Scott Pruitt to disable the EPA, Pruitt did a thorough job, either directly removing long standing employees or making the place so horrible that people left. Biden has not even tried to replace the former scientists and technicians with the same quality employees. And yes corporations are now completely running the country.
The people of Ohio should be very angry.