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Removal of toxic soil in East Palestine is picking up

 Crews work at the site of a train derailment near East Palestine.
Ryan Loew
Ideastream Public Media
Crews work at the site of a train derailment near East Palestine. The U.S. EPA has come under fire from politicians recently for not moving fast enough to remove toxic waste from the derailment site.

Progress is being made to remove the more than 26,000 tons of toxic soil in East Palestine, Gov. Mike DeWine said.

DeWine and other officials have criticized the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for moving too slowly in removing a huge pile of toxic soil in East Palestine. That’s changed, DeWine said.

“That has picked up. Just to give you some numbers, 1,620 tons were removed this past week," DeWine said. "That compares to 910 tons the week before.”

About 26,700 tons of toxic soil remain, DeWine said.

The process was previously held up when the EPA halted shipments of toxic material headed to facilities in Michigan and Texas. It’s crazy for states not to take waste from East Palestine, which is no more toxic than other waste these facilities take every day, DeWine said. He thinks politics got involved in these decisions.

"We're seeing some more progress but never fast enough," DeWine said.

6.7 million gallons of toxic liquid have been removed, he said.

A map of how the U.S. EPA is conducting soil sampling.
News 5 Cleveland
The U.S. EPA is conducting soil sampling in East Palestine, shown by this map on March 17, 2023.

Soil sampling is underway on private and agricultural land. No results are back yet, but the sampling is halfway done, DeWine said. Soil sampling will likely take another one to two weeks, Mark Durno with the U.S. EPA said. Private testing for resident's yards is also being made available.

Huge progress has been made toward removing and remediating the soil under the first train track, DeWine said, but there's no timeline for how long the cleanup will take.

"There's a lot of work to be done," DeWine said, "and again, we're going to continue to do everything we can to push this thing through and to get the railroad to get the job done."

Hellbenders have been found in Little Beaver Creek, and they look like they're thriving, DeWine said.

"They're a signal about the quality of water," he said, noting that the salamanders wouldn't be there if the water quality wasn't good.

Municipal water and air tests in East Palestine continue to come back with good results, DeWine said. 616 indoor sites have been tested.

Norfolk Southern is preparing for first responder training on March 21. A second location for increased training for firefighters will open soon.

Abigail Bottar covers Akron, Canton, Kent and the surrounding areas for Ideastream Public Media.