ROACHDALE, Ind. — Governor Eric Holcomb directed his administration to contract with a third-party provider to immediately conduct testing of the hazardous materials shipped from the East Palestine train derailment site to Putnam County.
“Effective immediately, I have directed our administration to contract with a nationally recognized
laboratory to begin rigorous 3rd party testing for dangerous levels of dioxins on the material being transported to the Roachdale facility from the East Palestine train spill.
As I indicated in an earlier statement, it was extremely disappointing to learn through a press conference held on Monday, Feb. 27, 2023, confirming that the EPA had chosen Indiana as a location to deposit and remediate the waste from East Palestine, Ohio. This was made after our administration directly conveyed that the materials should go to the nearest facilities, not moved from the far eastern side of Ohio to the far western side of Indiana. As you can expect, I expressed as much to the EPA administrator when we spoke on the phone Tuesday, Feb. 28.
All of us can agree that we should do everything within our control to provide assurance to our communities. This testing is the next necessary step. Since making this decision, we have informed the EPA and the site operator urging them to coordinate closely with this 3rd party laboratory to carry out this important testing. Sampling is scheduled to begin tomorrow, Friday, March 3,” Gov. Holcomb said.
A full house of community members assembled in Putnam County Wednesday, demanding answers about contaminated waste destined for a nearby landfill.
The public meeting at the Russellville Community Center drew heated debate from residents, who have questions about the Heritage Environmental landfill, which is slated to receive about 100 trucks full of waste from the Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.
One by one, the community took to the microphone, expressing their anger and frustration over why the landfill agreed to take the waste at all. Some questioned if there were plans in place in case the landfill liners fail and what will be done if the toxic waste contaminates water and soil near their home.
"I cringe a little bit to think of this material in a landfill just sitting there because most landfills eventually fail. When they fail, then you maybe have this hidden release of materials and this mixture of toxins that may be in that landfill," Dr. Gabriel Filippelli, executive director of IU Environmental Resilience Institute and a Chancellor’s Professor of Earth Sciences at IUPUI, told 13News Wednesday.
Area resident Ross Cauldwell came to Wednesday's meeting to voice his concerns.
“Very concerned," he said. "We have a nonprofit ranch for at-risk kids called Little Oaks Ranch and, of course, all the people where I live have wells and, of course, the horses drink a lot, so very concerned. Worried about dioxins in the contaminated soil, want the landfill and the EPA to test it for dioxins before receiving waste."
At the meeting, Heritage Environmental announced three truckloads of contaminated soil had already arrived in western Indiana.
"They were accepted today. They were dumped today," the company said to boos and shouts of anger from the crowd.
Some residents said they were horrified that the contaminated soil arrived in Putnam County and was dumped before the landfill spoke with them about the situation.
Putnam County Commissioner David Berry said the county takes regular samples at the landfill, twice a year, and said there haven't been issues in the past at the Heritage Environmental facility.
“Those test, water test results, come back to the Putnam County Health Department and since I’ve been in office they haven’t called and said we have contamination or a leak. There hasn’t been anything," he said.
Berry said he's not concerned that this will be an issue, based on the company's track record here
“They’ve been doing business up here since 1981. We’ve had no reports of contamination or leaching, they go by the rules. They can’t afford to mess up. Number one public safety, and number two, they don’t want to face a lawsuit or big heavy fine. I’m comfortable it’s going in the right place, because these people know how to handle it,” Berry said.
Tuesday, Heritage Environmental facilities manager Eric Chris said the company was monitoring both upstream and downstream to make sure there were no leaks. Vice president Ali Alavi said the levels of butyl acrylate the landfill was receiving are well below what it is allowed to receive.
"The regulatory level is six parts per million that you're allowed to receive here at the landfill. That material that we are receiving is coming out at about .033 parts per million," said Alavi.
In all, about 2,000 pounds of contaminated waste from the East Palestine site are expected to be delivered to Putnam County.