President Biden faced backlash after refusing to visit East Palestine, Ohio, following the tragic train derailment earlier this month. When asked if he plans to pay a personal visit to the town, he said, “At this moment, not,” adding that he “did a whole video Zoom.”
Biden and his administration defended his decision, suggesting that the visit was unnecessary, given that the situation was already taken care of.
"I had a long meeting with my team and what they're doing," he said, pointing out, “We were there two hours after the train went out. Two hours. I’ve spoken with every major figure in both Pennsylvania and Ohio, so the idea that we're not engaged is simply not there.”
Rather visiting small Ohio town, the president instead made a surprise visit to Kyiv, Ukraine earlier this week, in acknowledgment of the one-year anniversary of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.
Many have criticized Biden for not making enough of an effort given the circumstances, especially since former president Donald Trump flew to the area on Wednesday, where he distributed water, food, and cleaning supplies to the local community.
During his visit, Trump voiced his disdain for his successor’s actions, saying, “I sincerely hope that when your representatives and all of the politicians get here including Biden, (when) they get back from touring Ukraine, that he’s got some money left over.”
This endeavor is seen as a positive move from Trump’s supporters, considering that he’s set to run for the presidency in the next election.
Locals were also not happy with Biden’s choice to prioritize Ukraine over America, with one resident complaining, “We’re really not getting any help from the administration that’s in power right now.”
Although Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg showed up on site on Thursday, one day after Trump, locals found this response lazy, noting that he showed up far too late.
Buttigieg was not received well by locals, especially after he seemingly brushed off the incident by saying, “While this horrible situation has gotten a particularly high amount of attention, there are roughly 1000 cases a year of a train derailing.”
On February 3rd, a 51-car Norfolk Southern train derailed in East Palestine, located near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. Although there were no deaths or injuries as a direct result of the incident, over 45,000 animals were killed as a result.
Most of the cars were carrying hazardous materials including vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate, 2-ethylhexyl acrylate, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, isobutylene, benzene residue, and other combustible liquids.
Over 100,000 gallons were reportedly spilled. The town and surrounding areas were evacuated immediately after the accident.
People have also reported “rainbow-colored” water in local creeks.
Experts continue to be concerned about the situation, criticizing the handling of the aftermath. Some are arguing that the “controlled burn” of certain railcars made the situation worse.
Norfolk Southern initially donated $25,000 to East Palestine to help with cleanup, equating to roughly $5 per person. Given the amount of damage, which some argue could linger for generations, the payment was taken as an insult.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has since ordered Norfolk Southern to cover all contamination clean-up fees, including all work that has been done by the EPA from day one.
The situation is still ongoing with many residents considering moving out of the area permanently.