President Joe Biden might not be visiting East Palestine, Ohio, anytime soon, but he’s making sure the federal government is keeping tabs on residents in the city where a train derailment and fire Feb. 3 led to toxic chemicals being released into the environment.
According to The Hill, Biden on Friday issued an order directing federal agencies to make door-to-door checks on East Palestine residents, many of whom are worried that a controlled burn of toxic vinyl chloride carried on the Norfolk Southern freight train that derailed is contaminating the air and water supply.
Biden’s order calls for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Environmental Protection Agency and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to visit as many homes as possible by Monday to see how families are doing and connect them to any resources they might need. After hurricanes and other natural disasters, similar “walk teams” were deployed by FEMA.
The Associated Press reported Friday that officials said the immediate goal was to visit at least 400 homes. East Palestine has a population of about 4,700.
Many residents also have been angry at the Biden administration’s response to the disaster. FEMA, which leads the federal response to disasters, did not arrive on the scene until last Saturday, just over two weeks after the derailment, after initially saying East Palestine did not require its assistance. EPA Director Michael Regan was the only top Biden administration official to visit East Palestine until Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Thursday.
East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway told Newsmax last Saturday he didn’t “really know what the big lag in the federal government’s response has been.”