Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

DeWine says release of hazardous materials in railroad derailment 'a direct threat to lives'

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and emergency leaders at a press conference about the derailment of railroad cars carrying hazardous materials in East Palestine Ohio
ODOT, District 11
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and emergency leaders at a press conference about the derailment of railroad cars carrying hazardous materials in East Palestine Ohio

Residents remain evacuated from their homes a day after a controlled burn of hazardous materials following a train derailment in East Palestine.

Gov. Mike DeWine described the situation as "a direct threat to lives" and said he is concerned about the possibility of something like this happening again in the future.

Ten Norfolk and Southern train cars, including ten carrying hazardous materials, derailed in a fiery crash Friday night. Five were transporting vinyl chloride, an ingredient used to make hard plastic resin products.

The National Cancer Institute has said that chemical is associated with an increased risk of liver cancer and other cancers.

DeWine said on Sunday night, he was dealing with "a very, very dangerous situation."

"Things started going south Sunday night when I was on a conference call and they informed me that the railroad said that in one of the cars, the temperature continued to go up, up, up, up and if it continued there would be what they described as a catastrophic explosion," DeWine said.

Monday afternoon's controlled release of a toxic chemical from cars that were part of a train derailment this weekend has DeWine waiting for more information about how this situation happened.

“You see one of these things happened and you are concerned. I mean I am concerned about what might happen in the future,” he said.

DeWine said after discussions with Gov. Josh Shapiro (D-Pennsylvania), Ohio National Guard leaders, railroad officials and other state leaders, the best course of action was to do a controlled release.

"And we knew, though, that that was a risk. We were taking a risk there but we thought the risk of not doing it was greater," DeWine explained.

An evacuation order was given to residents in the East Palestine area Sunday night and Monday afternoon, a controlled burn was conducted to drain vinyl chloride, a chemical that officials said was unstable and could have self-combusted otherwise.

DeWine said he’s awaiting reports from the federal government to determine what can be done to prevent this from happening in the future.

Shelly Corbin, campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign, issued a written statement saying train derailments, factory explosions, and chemical pollution happen too frequently in Ohio, Pennsylvania and in other areas of the county.

She said more communication is needed between elected officials, railroads and regulatory agencies to determine the extent of damage to air and water then come up with ways to mitigate the harm.

“We don't have to live like this. Every person living in this country - regardless of ZIP code, income, or race - has the right to live safely in their communities without the risk of toxic chemicals irreparably polluting their air, their water, and their ground," Corbin said.

At this point, most of those evacuated from their homes have not come back to the area. Sen. Michael Rulli (R-Salem) has encouraged anyone who has evacuated to reach out if they need assistance. "If anyone needs help with temporary housing or any other kind or emergency assistance, do not hesitate to reach out," Rulli said.

Contact Jo Ingles at
Related Content