HAZMAT expert: Home chemical tests expected before E. Palestine evacuees return
East Palestine Fire Chief Keith Drabick made it abundantly clear Tuesday afternoon that village evacuees are not returning until all homes are deemed safe.
This comes after crews conducted a controlled explosion of derailed train tanks holding toxic chemicals on Monday.
Former Mahoning County Hazmat Response Deputy Chief, Silverio Caggiano, said he doesn't blame Drabick for that because although the controlled release may be over, it doesn't mean homes are 100% clear of deadly chemicals.
Caggiano added while dangerous chemicals outside may be dissipating, he predicts there will be more steps taken before evacuees living in the "danger zone" can return.
"It's going to linger less time outside than it will inside their homes," he said.
That's because when crews released the vinyl chloride out of the train tanks, Caggiano said the new chemical mixture of hydrogen chloride and phosgene let off in the burn is "heavier than air," and looks to seep down to the lowest possible place where the chemicals can "remain viable."
"What's the lowest point of anywhere in the neighborhood?" he said, "Basements of houses."
The certainty of a safe return will take crews testing gas in every single surrounding house, he predicts.
"I would imagine before anybody is allowed to go in any one of their homes, they're going to go in these homes and they're going to check those basements," he said, "It will take at least a half hour a home, at least."
If chemicals are found in homes, he said crews will then need to vent them out and with the help the village has right now, he said there's no excuse for error.
"You've got the resources there now...might as well do it, and do this right because you mess up one time, you're opening yourself up to a lot of liability," he said, "Let them do their job. It's just keeping you safe."