WASHINGTON — The White House announced Monday that teams from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reached over 530 East Palestine, Ohio, households in less than 72 hours, surpassing their target of reaching 400 households by Monday.
President Joe Biden on Friday ordered federal agencies to go door to door to personally check on affected residents after the Feb. 3 train derailment that spilled toxic chemicals in the area.
The White House said in a statement shared first with NBC News that federal officials provided flyers with additional resources and conducted health surveys, ensuring the outreach will continue through the week.
The White House has come under fire for not having acted quickly to intervene and help with disaster response. Biden has not traveled to the area; his likely 2024 rival, former President Donald Trump, visited last week and harshly criticized the administration. White House officials pushed back against the criticism, noting the federal teams that arrived at the disaster site hours after Norfolk Southern reported the derailment.
At an interagency news conference Monday, East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway was asked whether he was satisfied with the response. He replied: “Yes and no. I really think they’re working as hard as they can.”
He continued, “They are saying everything’s safe and we’re taking them at their word, but we need to get to the bottom of what’s happening.”
EPA Administrator Michael Regan will visit East Palestine on Tuesday for the third time since the disaster three weeks ago, as response efforts shift from their “emergency” phase to “long-term remediation.”
Regan is expected to announce the opening of a community center where residents can meet with EPA and other agency staff members to learn more about available services.
Hazardous waste from the site is once again on the move after the EPA temporarily paused shipments over the weekend. The material is being transported to vetted EPA disposal sites in nearby East Liverpool and Vickery, Ohio.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg sent a letter Monday urging major freight railroad CEOs to join a voluntary safety reporting program of conditions that could lead to derailments. Buttigieg has asked for replies by the end of the week.
Buttigieg visited East Palestine last Thursday after he faced intense pressure, mostly from Republicans, for not having been more proactive in his response.
The calls are now being directed at Biden, who told reporters Friday that he was not planning to visit East Palestine “at this time.”
He added: “I had a long meeting with my team, and what they’re doing, you know, we were there two hours after the train went down, two hours. I’ve spoken with every single major figure in both Pennsylvania and Ohio. And so the idea that we’re not engaged is just simply not there.”