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EPA asks for quicker disposal of hazardous waste from derailment, while some voice concerns

Smoke rises from the derailed, burning Norfolk Southern train in East Palestine.
National Transportation Safety Board
An image from drone video taken on Feb. 5, 2023 of the Norfolk Southern train derailment near East Palestine, Ohio.

The transport of contaminated waste from the site of the Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, has resumed.

The U.S. EPA last week directed the company to accelerate the site cleanup. Early shipments of waste, including contaminated soil and liquids, were sent to Michigan and Texas, which surprised public officials in those states. On Saturday, Waste removal was then put on pause for a day.

According to US EPA Region 5 administrator Debra Shore, the waste is now being sent to three disposal sites in Ohio and one in Indiana.

We owe it to East Palestine and residents nearby to move waste out of the community as quickly as possible,” Shore said. “And that’s exactly what we’re working to do.”

EPA-certified Heritage Thermal Solutions incinerator in East Liverpool and Vickery Environmental, an underground hazardous waste injection well in northwestern Ohio, began receiving derailment waste Monday morning, according to Gov. Mike DeWine’s office.

The Ross Incinerator in Grafton, Ohio and the Heritage Hazardous Waste Landfill in Roachdale, Indiana, also started taking the contaminated waste this week.

“The addition to these two disposal locations gets us closer to having enough capacity to finish the cleanup and get all the waste out of East Palestine as quickly as possible,” Shore said.

According to the Ohio EPA, approximately 4,832 cubic yards of contaminated soil had been collected from the derailment site by late Monday.

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Concern in East Liverpool

Two 28-cubic-yard boxes of contaminated soil were sent Monday to Heritage Thermal Services, a hazardous waste incinerator 20 miles south of the site in East Liverpool, which sits along the Ohio River near the Pennsylvania border.

This has sparked concern for some East Liverpool residents. “We don’t have faith that Heritage Thermal will do this in the correct way,” said Daniel Winston, co-director of the non-profit River Valley Organizing, “And why we don’t have that faith is because of the track record.”

Environmental groups point out that EPA records show the facility has violated its Clean Air Act Permit in seven of the previous 12 quarters.

Heritage Thermal said in an email that its incineration is a “highly controlled and rigorously regulated process.” US EPA said the facility is currently in compliance.

Additional contaminated soil at the derailment site will be collected when the process to remove the rails begins, which could happen Wednesday, according to DeWine.

Liquid waste

Contaminated liquid waste is also being removed from the site.

Ohio EPA reported that approximately 1.8 million gallons of liquid waste had been collected from the derailment site by late Monday. Of that, more than 1.2 million gallons were sent to a waste disposal facility in Texas, 319,002 gallons went to a facility in Michigan, and 94,372 gallons were disposed at the Vickery, Ohio facility.

More contaminated liquid is expected to be collected during the cleanup process, according to DeWine.

Read more from our partners, The Allegheny Front.

Corrected: March 1, 2023 at 2:29 PM EST
This story was updated to correct the name of River Valley Organizing.
Julie Grant is senior reporter with The Allegheny Front, covering food and agriculture, pollution, and energy development in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Throughout her career, she has traveled as far as Egypt and India for stories, trawled for mussels in the Allegheny River, and got sick in a small aircraft while viewing a gas well pad explosion in rural Ohio. Julie graduated from Miami University of Ohio and studied land ethics at Kent State University. She can be reached at