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DeWine wants federal disaster declaration for East Palestine

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(The Center Square) – Five months after a train carrying toxic chemicals derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine asked President Joe Biden for a Major Presidential Disaster Declaration.

DeWine said the community needs the declaration in case Norfolk Southern does not follow through on promises to make East Palestine whole again after the Feb. 3 derailment that led to the release of toxic chemicals into the ground, water and air.

“The possibility remains that the voluntary support provided by Norfolk Southern could at some point in the future cease, and this Declaration is needed to ensure that the State and Federal government use all resources available to step in and provide the community with needed assistance,” DeWine wrote in his letter to Biden.

According to DeWine, FEMA officials have told the state that federal help would be unlikely without the declaration if Norfolk Southern stops its support. Thus far, the company has reimbursed citizens and state and local governments for costs associated with the damage.

“Because of the unique nature of this incident the state is still working to identify current needs and evaluate the future impacts this disaster will have on individuals and the community,” DeWine wrote in the letter. “In addition to the physical and mental health impacts, there have been economic impacts. Homeowners and businesses have seen property value decline and loss of business as people are hesitant to come into the community.”

As previously reported by The Center Square, the National Transportation Safety Board blamed the derailment on an overheated wheel bearing. There were no injuries from the crash.

The derailment near the Ohio-Pennsylvania line was largely out of the spotlight for nearly two weeks. A controlled burn Feb. 6, and social media buzz after Valentine’s Day sparked more interest with previously silent politicians weighing in heavily.

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