Gov. Mike DeWine says Ohio Department of Health to set up clinic in East Palestine

The Ohio Department of Health will set up a clinic in East Palestine with help from federal officials to address the medical needs of residents, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Friday.

The governor spoke with the White House this week and secured assistance from the US Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Residents have complained about headaches and skin rashes since a Norfolk Southern train containing hazardous materials derailed in their village Feb. 3.

East Palestine train derailment updates:Chemical plume in Ohio River has dissipated

“We know the science indicates that the water is safe, the water is safe,” DeWine said during a news conference. “But we also know, very understandably, that the residents of East Palestine are concerned. They might have a headache. They might ask themselves, ‘Is this a headache? Or is this a headache that is in fact caused by the train derailment? “

Health officials expect to begin seeing patients early next week. The clinic will be available to anyone in the area, regardless of whether they have health insurance. Hours, location and other information will be posted online at

Gov.  Mike DeWine speaks about the East Palestine train derailment with his cabinet officials during a press conference on Feb.  14.

Gov. Mike DeWine speaks about the East Palestine train derailment with his cabinet officials during a press conference on Feb. 14.

White House officials said the administration’s team will include medical personnel and toxicologists tasked with handling public health testing and assessments. A team from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry will also interview people in the derailment area and conduct a chemical exposure investigation.

Weekly public meetings with emergency responders and other officials will begin Feb. 23, according to the White House.

Will DeWine declare disaster in East Palestine?

US Sen. Sherrod Brown and other officials have pushed the governor to declare a disaster in East Palestine to open up resources from the federal government.

But DeWine said the Federal Emergency Management Agency continues to tell him that Ohio doesn’t qualify for their assistance, which is usually reserved for disasters that cause significant property damage. The governor filed a document with the agency Friday to “preserve our rights” for help if the state is eligible down the road.

Ohio’s congressional delegation sent a letter to FEMA Thursday asking why East Palestine doesn’t qualify for assistance. Meanwhile, DeWine said he didn’t want to give people the wrong impression by declaring a disaster.

“We don’t want people to think something will happen, and I try not to mislead people,” he said.

Is East Palestine water and water safe?

DeWine said the plume of butyl acrylate that leaked into the Ohio River after the derailment had dissipated. Previous samples showed low, non-hazardous levels of the chemical − used in paints, plastics and other products − but more recent tests didn’t pick up anything.

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The plume was expected to reach Cincinnati this weekend, prompting local officials to temporarily close their water intakes.

“We do believe that there’s no reason to be concerned about water from the Ohio River, and there’s never really been a reason to be concerned,” DeWine said.

Clean water was pumped into Sulfur Run in East Palestine on Feb.  11.

Clean water was pumped into Sulfur Run in East Palestine on Feb. 11.

In East Palestine, DeWine said, it’s now safe for residents to drink from the municipal water system. Officials are still urging people with private wells to get their supply tested and drink bottled water out of caution. DeWine said 38 private wells have been sampled so far, and more were scheduled for testing Friday.

US Sen. J.D. Vance posted a video during his visit to East Palestine on Thursday of a stream that appeared to contain chemical runoff. In an apparent reference to that video, DeWine said Sulfur Run remained heavily contaminated but was dammed to prevent it from running into other waterways.

“This is going to take a while to remediate,” DeWine said. “It will be remediated, but it’s certainly a place to be avoided at this point.”

Officials continued to test the air outside and inside the house as requested and found nothing unsafe. DeWine said the 75 homes showed elevated levels of volatile organic compounds, but further testing found none of the chemicals were associated with the derailment.

Ohio train derailments:Lawsuit says Norfolk Southern released 1.1 million pounds of vinyl chloride into air

DeWine tries to calm fears in East Palestine

Many residents have expressed skepticism of the government response and say officials are downplaying the consequences of the derailment.

DeWine sought to combat that distrust Friday, saying he has no reason to minimize what happened. He said the state has access to the best experts and testing equipment available, and officials believe the water and air tests are accurate.

The governor also repeated promises to hold the Norfolk Southern Railroad accountable and said Attorney General Dave Yost was “looking at this situation.” DeWine said he was disappointed that the railroad pulled out of a town hall in East Palestine this week and encouraged the CEO to answer the community’s questions.

“We’re going to make sure that they fulfill their duty,” DeWine said. “They caused us problems.”

Akron Beacon Journal reporter Emily Mills contributed.

Haley BeMiller is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio train derailment: State to open East Palestine health clinic

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