Holcomb says EPA did not tell him East Palestine hazardous materials were headed to Indiana

February 28, 2023

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency did not tell him hazardous materials from an Ohio train derailment were headed to an Indiana landfill.

The EPA announced Feb. 27 that some toxic waste from the Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio was headed to a landfill in Roachdale, Indiana and an incinerator in Grafton, Ohio.

The Feb. 3 derailment led to the release of 1.1 million gallons of vinyl chloride into the environment. Vinyl chloride is linked to an increased risk of developing liver, brain and lung cancers as well as lymphoma and leukemia.

Holcomb said he opposes the decision and learned about it third-hand.

“I continue to object to the EPA administrator’s decision, from Washington, D.C., to move hazardous waste from the East Palestine train derailment to Indiana. Further, there has been a lack of communication with me and other Indiana officials about this decision,” Holcomb said in a press release.

“After learning third-hand that materials may be transported to our state yesterday, I directed my environmental director to reach out to the agency. The materials should go to the nearest facilities, not moved from the far eastern side of Ohio to the far western side of Indiana.”

The head of the state’s environmental agency, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, is Commissioner Brian Rockensuess. He was appointed commissioner by Holcomb in December 2021.

Holcomb said he has requested to speak to EPA administrator Michael Regan about the decision and wants to know exactly what will be transported and what precautions will be taken.

In a press conference in East Palestine Feb. 28, Regan said the agency was working on an “alert system” to hold Norfolk Southern accountable by informing appropriate authorities when waste from the derailment was headed their way.

“Communities have a right to know, which is why there was a brief pause when the EPA took over the cleanup so that we could work to assess directly from the company where they had contracts in place and which communities the soil will be shipped to,” Regan said. “There are facilities that exist within Ohio and all over the country that are heavily regulated and permitted to take this kind of waste.”

Asked about the concerns of states receiving the waste, East Palestine Mayor Trent R. Conaway said there should be little concern about the shipment of the materials to permitted landfills.

“They knew the facilities were in their states. I understand their concern, but at the same time, it’s governed by the federal EPA, so it should be safe for all the citizens there,” Conaway said.

IDEM records indicate the 58-acre Roachdale landfill is owned by Indianapolis-based Heritage Environmental Services LLC, the largest privately held environmental company in North America. The company owns two of the 16 permitted hazardous waste treatment, storage or disposal facilities in the state.

The site is permitted to treat and dispose of waste containing more than a thousand different types of chemicals, including vinyl chloride.

Anyone involved in transporting the hazardous waste from one facility to another also requires a permit from the U.S. Department of Transportation to transport hazardous waste.

Holcomb says EPA did not tell him East Palestine hazardous materials were headed to Indiana