U.S. EPA chief revisits Ohio derailment site as Republicans blast Biden


By Andrew Hay

(Reuters) -The U.S Environmental Protection Agency chief on Tuesday postponed a trip to Africa to make a third visit the site of an Ohio train derailment and toxic spill, while President Joe Biden’s administration jousted verbally with Republicans who criticized its response to the incident.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan reassured concerned residents of East Palestine that testing showed water was safe to drink and the air safe to breathe after the Feb. 3 derailment led to a controlled burn of chemicals aboard rail cars.

“I recognize there has been a deficit of trust,” Regan told reporters as he opened an EPA outreach office in a red-brick storefront in the town of 4,700. “We are going to be laser-focused on the cleanup and to continue to protect the public from any kind of harm.” 

Former U.S. President Donald Trump and some other Republicans criticized the Biden administration’s handling of the derailment. The administration in turn slammed Trump and his Republicans for slackening rail safety and environmental protections measures when they ran the government.


Regan, who postponed a trip to West Africa to make Tuesday’s Ohio visit, said federal agencies would stay in the area, which voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2020, for as long as it took to bounce back from the disaster.

On Monday, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said it was opening an inquiry into the EPA’s actions following the derailment. Republicans on the committee sought information on the EPA’s response and monitoring.

East Palestine resident Ted Murphy, 58, had to leave his home close to the derailment. He said his throat burns and his nose runs when he returns to the property to pick up possessions.

Chemicals from the derailment washed into streams and heavy rain on Monday churned up pollution, he said. Regan warned residents not to enter the water.

“The creeks came up high and the smell was right back,” said Murphy, a carpenter, who is staying with his sister in nearby Negley.

(Reporting by Andrew Hay; Additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici and David Shepardson; Editing by Donna Bryson, Richard Chang and David Gregorio)