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Train Derailment and Initial Response
Fifty-three Norfolk Southern train cars derail in East Palestine, Ohio — near the Pennsylvania border.
The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Environmental Protection monitor the situation throughout the weekend.
Public Health Monitoring
The Pennsylvania Department of Health begins monitoring hospital data to determine the impact of the derailment on public health.
The situation shifts rapidly throughout the morning.
A temperature reading in a derailed train car provides cause for concern. Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) Director Randy Padfield activates the Commonwealth Response Coordination Center.
PEMA and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection post website alerts linking to more information on the derailment from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Governor Shapiro — along with staff from the Departments of Health, Environmental Protection, Military and Veterans Affairs, Human Services, Transportation, State Police, and the Turnpike Commission — gather in the coordination center to respond and protect Pennsylvanians' safety.
Evacuation and Controlled Vent and Burn
A controlled vent and burn is planned at the derailment site in Ohio.
In Pennsylvania, a call is made to evacuate homes within the one-mile zone in Beaver County.
Governor Shapiro directs PEMA and state police to personally contact every Pennsylvanian in the evacuation zone. In the interest of public safety, officials knock on every door in the evacuation zone.
Governor Shapiro holds a press conference to provide an update on the emergent situation. He tells Beaver County residents in the one-mile zone to evacuate, and announces that residents within two miles should shelter in place.
Watch the governor's press conference calling for evacuation.
Pennsylvanians heed the governor's call. All Pennsylvania homes are evacuated by 3:30 p.m.
The controlled vent and burn takes place.
The Department of Agriculture identifies two farms in the immediate zone, both Amish-owned with no option for telecommunication.
The department contacts veterinary practices in the region to reach out to Amish community members. Instructions are given to keep animals indoors, place hay and water in the vicinity, and evacuate people as directed by emergency personnel.
The department also sends out a list of livestock procedures for those who were instructed to shelter in-place.
In the evening, Governor Shapiro hosts a second press conference.
He announces that the vent and burn went as planned, and thanks Pennsylvanians for their cooperation. He lets people know that the Environmental Protection Agency has reported no detectable levels of chemicals of concern in the air or water.
He reminds everyone in the two-mile zone to continue sheltering in place, and tells everyone to stay away from the one-mile area.
Watch the governor's evening update on the controlled vent and burn.
Updates and Continued Monitoring
Pennsylvania Emergency Management Director Randy Padfield releases an update on the train derailment.
The Commonwealth Response Coordination Center remains partially activated and continues to closely monitor the situation.
The Environmental Protection Agency continues to report no detectable levels of chemicals of concern in the air or water.
The Department of Health contacts local hospitals to determine outstanding needs or concerns.
Safe to Return Home
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Gov. Josh Shapiro, East Palestine Fire Chief and Incident Commander Keith Drabick, and local, state, and federal officials announce that evacuated residents in and around East Palestine can safely return home.
Read the press release about evacuees returning home.
The Departments of Health and Environmental Protection put together a sheet with answers to frequently asked health and safety questions. Get the answers to FAQs.
Drinking Water Safety
The Department of Health begins working closely with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry on developing drinking water screening values.
Beaver County Officials Meeting
Governor Shapiro and PEMA Director Randy Padfield meet with Beaver County Commissioners and Beaver County emergency management leaders.
Letter to Norfolk Southern
Gov. Shapiro sent Norfolk Southern a letter
outlining concerns with their crisis management practices, saying: “You can be assured that Pennsylvania will hold Norfolk Southern accountable for any and all impacts to our commonwealth.”
In that letter, Gov. Shapiro also:
- Called on the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to review Norfolk Southern’s conduct and report back their findings.
- Pledged the full cooperation of his Administration with any state legislative oversight investigation.
- Called on the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to reexamine what constitutes a high-hazard flammable train and revisit the need for regulation requiring high-hazard flammable trains to carry more advance safety and braking equipment.
Independent Water Sampling Announced
The Shapiro Administration announces the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection will conduct independent water sampling to closely monitor water contamination risks related to the East Palestine derailment. Every Pennsylvanian in the one-mile by two-mile zone around the derailment will have access to water sampling as needed.
Environmental Protection Web Resource
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection launches a webpage to provide the latest updates on air and water quality monitoring. Visit the DEP's webpage.
Animal Safety Update
Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding announces that the department has received no reports of livestock, poultry, or other domestic animal symptoms that could be attributed to air contaminants from the train derailment.
The department says there were two reports from private veterinarians treating horses affected by smoke immediately after the controlled burn.
The department also says it is continuously monitoring how the situation affects animal health and will advise Pennsylvanians immediately if water quality and environmental sampling results warrant additional procedures.
Read the Department of Agriculture press release on animal safety.
Governor Visits East Palestine and Beaver County
Governor Shapiro has met with leaders and affected residents in Beaver County several times to update them on what the commonwealth is doing and to hear what people in Beaver County need.
On February 21, he visited East Palestine, Ohio, to give an update on the Norfolk Southern train derailment, alongside the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine.
Gov. Shapiro detailed the work his administration is doing to protect Pennsylvanians and the environment, and pledged to work with the EPA's incident management teams as they assess and test for environmental and health impacts as part of a sweeping enforcement action to compel Norfolk Southern to conduct and pay for cleanup. Watch Gov. Shapiro's comments.
Gov. Shapiro visited Darlington Township in Beaver County to meet with residents who received water testing that morning from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's Southwest Regional Office. Above: The governor shakes hands with Thaddeus and Emily Leslie of Darlington, Pennsylvania.
Reimbursements for Fire Departments
Governor Shapiro announces that his administration is working to ensure that Western Pennsylvania fire departments are reimbursed by Norfolk Southern for the costs of replacing equipment contaminated during response and remediation.
The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and Office of the State Fire Commissioner reached out directly to local fire departments and are working with them to identify and catalogue their damaged and contaminated equipment. The agencies will help streamline submissions to the Norfolk Southern claims director.
Read the governor's announcement on reimbursing fire departments.
Private Wells Tested
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announces it has tested nearly every private well in Pennsylvania within one mile of the train derailment site.
Read DEP's press release on well water testing.
New Health Resource Center
The Shapiro-Davis Administration opens a free health resource center in Beaver County.
The center, located at 3590 Darlington Road in Darlington, is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays.
Community members are encouraged to visit if they'd like to talk with public health experts and/or receive treatment.
Read the governor's announcement on the opening of the health resource center.
Complaint Line Opens
Acting Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry announces a hotline to accept complaints from people who might be experiencing a lasting impact from the train derailment.
She reiterates that Pennsylvanians have a constitutional right to clean air and pure water, and encourages impacted citizens to reach out with concerns.
Read the acting attorney general's press release on the new complaint line.
Health Resource Center Update
The Department of Health announces that 200 Pennsylvania residents have visited its new health resource center in its first two days.
The most sought-out assistance included Department of Environmental Protection consultation, medical evaluations, general information, and Assessment of Chemical Exposure surveys.
Read the Department of Health's press release on residents being helped by the health resource center.
Preliminary Well Testing Results
The Department of Environmental Protection announces that preliminarly results have been received for all of the wells within a one-mile radius of the derailment site.
No contaminants of concern were detected.
Experts were testing for vinyl chloride, ethylene glycol, and ethanol.
Governor Shapiro Announces Long-Term Presence In Darlington Township
The Shapiro Administration announces plans to maintain a long-term, physical presence in Darlington Township, Beaver County, to continue assisting residents impacted by the Norfolk Southern train derailment that occurred on February 3 in East Palestine, Ohio.
Starting on Thursday, March 23, staff from the Pennsylvania Departments of Agriculture, Environmental Protection and Health will be on-site from noon to 5 p.m. every Thursday at the Darlington Township Building.
Staff from commonwealth agencies and Beaver County also announce that they plan to hold open-house events from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursdays.