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EPA pauses moving train derailment material to Indiana landfill

© iStock - den-belitsky
Joey Graham

(Indiana News Service) Putnam County residents are closely watching developments after learning multiple truckloads of waste from the train derailment site in East Palestine, Ohio, are already at a local landfill.

The Hoosier Environmental Council said now is the time for Indiana residents to start paying closer attention to the hazardous materials shipped by rail nearly every day through Indiana. The sounds of train whistles and clanging railroad-crossing bells are heard so often, the warnings can become background noise.

Tim Maloney, senior policy director for the Hoosier Environmental Council, said stronger safety standards are overdue.

"There are a lot of incidents that are happening; over 800 in 2022 in the United States," Maloney pointed out. "Of derailments, 447 cars involved were hazardous material railcars. So, it's a serious concern."

Maloney noted it is not uncommon to find railroad tracks parallel to waterways in Indiana, and other Ohio River Valley states, because the tracks were built along the natural pathways. The Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to temporarily stop sending the Ohio waste to Indiana, at least until a lab determines if the material contains harmful chemicals.

Maloney believes there is bipartisan support in Washington for strengthening rail safety regulations, and hopes there will be movement on them.

"The reason we don't have adequate safety regulations are the railroad companies are very active in limiting regulatory oversight," Maloney explained. "That will be the challenge for members of Congress, of actually getting appropriate standards put in place."

He added it is important for communities -- especially a county sheriff or local fire department -- to know what chemicals are in tankers, so they can properly respond to health or environmental threats and risk of explosions.