Democratic senator Joe Manchin is distancing himself from the Biden administration's aloof response to the ongoing public health crisis in East Palestine, Ohio, where a derailed train spilled toxic chemicals in early February.
The Biden administration's handling of the disaster has been "unacceptable," Manchin, who represents neighboring West Virginia, said.
The senator criticized the administration for taking almost two weeks to send a high-ranking official to the suffering rural town. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Michael Regan visited East Palestine on Thursday.
The February 3 derailment spilled hazardous chemicals including vinyl chloride, which can cause cancer and liver damage. Some of the chemicals were burned off in a controlled explosion as residents were evacuated from the area.
Manchin said the Biden administration needs to be more transparent about what happened in East Palestine and take steps to ensure nothing like it occurs again.
"The damage done to East Palestine and the surrounding region is awful and it’s past time for those responsible to step up to the plate," Manchin said.
Although residents have been told it is safe to return by state and federal officials, locals aren't feeling reassured, but abandoned.
Residents have complained of lingering odors, headaches, and signs of illness in their pets. They're worried about the air and the drinking water and piles of dead fish in local waterways.
"My house is just across the tracks … and it smells, too. You can’t spend a lot of time here without feeling like crap," resident Nathan Velez told Tucker Carlson Tonight. "And my question is why, if it’s okay if it’s safe, and all these people say it’s safe, if it’s so safe and okay then why does it hurt?"
Freshman senator J.D. Vance (R), an Ohio native, shared a video Thursday demonstrating the "disgusting" pollution in a local creek.
Visited a local creek in East Palestine today. These waterways are still very polluted. It’s time for Norfolk Southern to finish the cleanup. Check this video out: pic.twitter.com/4lsHBmrMJj
— J.D. Vance (@JDVance1) February 16, 2023
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has yet to visit the town, and neither have representatives of Norfolk Southern, the rail company involved in the disaster, citing "threats" to the company's employees.
"The Department of Transportation, your Department of Transportation, has things it can do. Stop blaming Donald Trump, a guy who hasn't been president for three years, and use the powers of the federal government to do the things necessary to help people in this community," Vance said.