02 March 2023- With Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro’s pledge to hold Norfolk Southern accountable, the area braces for more attention of the coming weeks. The PA Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness announces a subpoena for Norfolk Southern’s CEO to sit down in front of them earlier this week, as well as the state ramping up protections for the people affected in Beaver and Lawrence Counties. PEMA, the PA DOH, and the Shapiro Administration say that the reception to the clinic’s creation has been great, with hundreds going to it within days of it opening. Full release from the administration is below.
This week the Shapiro Administration continued its efforts to provide a whole-of-government response to the Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, by opening a Health Resource Center for residents of Beaver and Lawrence counties who have health concerns or other questions following the derailment on February 3, 2023.
The Center, opened by the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) in Darlington Township, Beaver County on February 28, has already helped to connect 200 residents with resources and services in just the first two days. Staff from DOH along with the Departments of Agriculture, Environmental Protection (DEP), and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) are also on site answering residents’ questions about their health, pets, farm animals, and air and water quality testing.
In the first few days, the most sought assistance has included DEP consultation, medical evaluations, general public health information and support with the Assessment of Chemical Exposure (ACE) surveys.
The Health Resource Center is open weekdays from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM through March 10 at the Darlington Township Building, 3590 Darlington Rd., Darlington, PA 16115. Additional available services include access to health care providers from DOH, the Primary Health Network, Beaver County Behavioral Health Services, and local pastoral care services.
Earlier this week, DOH staff, partnering with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), made door-to-door visits at the 22 households within the one-mile evacuation zone to conduct ACE surveys. Door-to-door visits will expand in the coming days and weeks. Residents who visit the Health Resource Center in Darlington will also have the opportunity to complete the survey there on site.
In the past two days, DOH preparedness and epidemiology staff, in partnership with Dr. Michael J. Lynch from the Pittsburgh Poison Center, also conducted three educational webinars for more than 580 health care providers from 17 Pennsylvania counties. The webinars provided information about what health care providers should consider when seeing patients in their offices, and how to address the real health concerns from residents affected by the derailment aftermath.
The next phase of the health care response includes personal outreach to first responders who were on-site following the train derailment. DOH staff will be carefully assessing any symptoms, experiences, and concerns about the impact of the train derailment on their lives as emergency personnel.
Health, environmental, and safety officials from Pennsylvania, Ohio, and multiple federal agencies are working together to continually monitor air and water quality in the region. Monitoring has been in place since the incident began, including the timing of the controlled vent and burn, the fire afterwards, and the days since. So far, no measurements of vinyl chloride, hydrogen chloride, or phosgene have exceeded health-based thresholds for short-term exposure.
PEMA has established an online dashboard where the public can find one-stop-shop information on air and water testing, health resources, cleaning services, how to get in touch with Norfolk Southern and much more.