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EPA pauses transport of toxic soil to Indiana from Ohio train derailment

ROACHDALE, Ind. (WISH) — The federal government has launched a special investigation into Norfolk Southern railroad company after the fiery East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment.

I-Team 8 told viewers last week about the truckloads of soil already arriving from Ohio at a Putnam County landfill. The announcement of a federal investigation came as the Indiana Department of Environmental Management released a statement saying waste shipments from the site to Indiana are on hold. A concern over a type of chemicals classified as dioxins caused the pause in shipments.

A third-party agency is testing the soil to see if it has dangerous levels of dioxins in it.

Gabriel Filippelli, a environmental geochemist and professor at IUPUI, who is closely following the type of contaminated soil slated to come to Putnam County, told I-Team 8, “Dioxins are a class of chemicals that are actually quite dangerous. They’re called persistent organic pollutants because they last in the environment for a very long time.”

“These materials probably do have dioxins in them, or at least that’s how they’re being listed right now,” Filippelli added.

On Tuesday morning, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency confirmed it will temporarily stop the waste shipments to Indiana from the site of the Feb. 3 train derailment.

U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, an Indiana Republican, said the waste should never have come to Indiana first without testing. “This halted shipment should stay halted, and the Biden EPA should explain why they started shipping material to Indiana instead of Michigan as originally planned.”

Previously, the operators of the Putnam County landfill, Heritage Environmental Services, told I-Team 8 it was only one of several facilities across the country slated to get the Ohio soil. Other sites included two in Michigan, where politicians also say they don’t want the soil to come to their districts.

The IUPUI professor said, “It’s the NIMBY attitude, ‘not in my back yard.’”

Filippelli also told I-Team 8 the toxic material has to go somewhere, and the landfill outside of Roachdale, Indiana, is qualified to take it, even if the third party’s testing reveals the soil has dioxins in it.

The professor said, “This facility is certainly capable of handling that, and I think what the public often doesn’t recognize is that this type of material has been going to that specific landfill for quite some time, so these hazardous wastes are regularly brought to these facilities. It’s just the profile of this case is hard to miss.”

If the testing reveals dioxins, Indiana Department of Environmental Management might require a special treatment before the soil can be disposed at the landfill. The state department plans to release the results of the soil testing when it is completed, although no timetable has been announced.