Evacuation order lifted for East Palestine residents after train derailment
The evacuation order for East Palestine residents has officially been lifted.
During a press conference Wednesday evening, East Palestine Fire Chief, Keith Drabick announced that after air monitoring throughout Tuesday night, it has been determined safe for residents to return home.
"With the full support of Governor DeWine, I am happy to announce the evacuation zone has been lifted," Drabick said with DeWine next to him in Wednesday evening's press conference.
Governor DeWine says he spoke with Pennsylvania Governor, Josh Shapiro before agreeing to this decision.
Residents who return home must follow the safe re-entry plan developed by the Columbiana County EMA.
Those who live south of the railroad tracks and are entering from North Brookdale should proceed to Main Street, turn on to East Main Street and proceed home. If entering from the west or south, proceed into the village from SR-170 or SR-46.
For those who live on the north side of the railroad tracks entering from the north should proceed on North Market Street and turn east onto your respective street. Those entering from the south should simply proceed north to your respective home.
All residents should continue avoiding areas surrounding the railway.
"Finally," said William Hugar of E. Taggart St. "I've been out of the home for how many days now and it's just exciting to get back home."
Bill Foster came back to his rental home along the tracks Wednesday... surprised to find not damage to the home exterior.
"The siding we'll probably have to have a pressure washer come in and clean it," Foster explained. "I don't know, maybe clean the inside too. We'll have to wait and see."
The derailment literally took place in Corrigan Shields backyard. He's still hesitant to come back home after smelling a chlorine scent in the air.
"It doesn't smell safe," Shields said. "There's an [air quality box] box over there. They're testing something. I've never seen one of those before in my life. It's across the street from my house. I'm out of here. Everyone else can call their own shots."
As the EPA continues to monitor air and water quality levels, city officials returning home Wednesday hoping the end of this train disaster is in site.
"When there's something of this magnitude, the outpouring of love, passion, and help, words can not describe it," said Douglas Simpson, President Pro Tem, East Palestine. "The people of this town care about each other they care about this town. We've never seen something of this magnitude. We've had problems here and there but nothing like this."
Ohio EPA officials did confirm that some of the toxic chemicals have made it into the water and are responsible for the deaths of fish, but say the water in the area is safe for residents to drink. Officials are working closely with partners to ensure nothing changes with the water quality.
Norfolk Southern Officials confirmed that there will be some temporary road closures including the railroad crossings at James Street and Pleasant Street, as well as Taggart Road from the state line to the car wash.
The Norfolk Family Assistance Center will remain open for the foreseeable future should residents still need assistance for expenses or business losses accrued during the evacuation order.
Folks who would like an air test done on their homes before returning can call 234-542-6474. You can also call 330-849-3919 for air monitoring which is open from 8:30 am to 5 pm daily. You can also use these numbers for water supply while your water is being tested.
Residents with questions about hotel assistance, water testing, or air sampling should call Norfolk Southern's Family Assistance Center at 800-230-7049.
The majority of businesses in East Palestine will reopen Thursday. Local business owners are concerned about the revenue they've lost in the past 5 days and hope they are compensated for the lost income.
"I'm concerned about the railroad helping us with our bills," said Kevin Reynolds, Owner of Dunes Tanning Salon and Muscle Works Gym. "We had to be shut down for 5 days. I'm a small business owner and I need my income to pay bills."
Trains began running again through East Palestine Wednesday.