On Friday, President Joe Biden offered full support for cleanup efforts in Ohio a year after a devastating toxic spill — drinking tap water and coffee during his visit to East Palestine.
After praising what he called “herculean efforts” by federal, state and local authorities to restore the environment after a train derailment and fire, he stopped at a store selling candles in the center of town.
And if there was any doubt about whether he thought the water was safe, he would take a sip of coffee and a sip of water in full view of the cameras.
The White House later said both contained local tap water.
It marked the end of “will he or won’t he” speculation in the press.
President Joe Biden drank coffee made with tap water during his visit to East Palestine. The Environmental Protection Agency has assured residents that local water is safe.
Biden chatted with locals during his stop at 1820 Candle Co in downtown
A day earlier, his press secretary had been asked if he would drink the water during his long-awaited visit.
“I can say this: the president is not worried about drinking water in East Palestine,” said Karine Jean-Pierre. “The Environmental Protection Agency is confident that drinking water is safe.”
Life in East Palestine was turned upside down in February last year when a 150-car freight train, operated by Norfolk Southern and carrying toxic chemicals, derailed.
Among its cargo was 700,000 pounds of vinyl chloride, a carcinogen used to produce pipes, furniture and other plastic products.
Rescuers made the decision to use a “controlled burn” to avoid the danger of a large explosion. Instead, it released a thick plume of black smoke.
Since then the EPA says so More than 176,000 tons of hazardous waste were eliminated. More than 49 million gallons of water, rain and snowmelt were removed or treated.
But it has left lingering health problems.
And residents have been eager for Biden to visit and assure them they will not be forgotten.
On Friday, four residents were chosen to meet with the president and present their concerns.
Still, the Protection Agency has put up signs around streams and water features warning people to stay away since the train derailed last year.
Their lives changed on February 3, 2023. A drone photograph shows parts of a Norfolk and Southern freight train that derailed outside the East Palestine village last year.
“East Palestine has been neglected and that has been a trademark of his administration,” said Chris Solis, who was on Main Street as part of the protest against Biden’s visit.
Jess Conard, a mother of three and a former passionate activist, said she was encouraged by what she heard.
“He trusted the federal government to fill in the gaps where Norfolk Southern was missing in its response,” he said. “East Palestine is not going to be abandoned and he recognizes that there are unmet needs.”
She was one of the signatories of a letter sent to the president on Thursday, asking him to make a major disaster declaration, provide long-term health care and monitoring and offer relocation funds for those like Ferguson who wanted to leave.
A day later, Biden announced new research grants to study the ongoing health effects of the spill.
“This way, you’ll have a top-notch investigator with you for as long as you need,” Biden said during his visit.
The residents made their feelings clear when their caravan arrived in town. The houses that backed onto the train tracks had signs saying: ‘Help. Our children are still sick.’
Others, including out-of-town Trump supporters, complained that Biden had taken too long to visit.
But Conard said the day marked a step forward in his campaign to ensure residents receive proper care.
“I’d like to think this is the first of many discussions,” he said. ‘/I don’t think this is an easy solution.
“I think there will be actions that will continue to develop over the next year. I don’t think this is a situation that can be fixed and resolved.”
President Joe Biden visited East Palestine on Friday afternoon to see for himself the site of last year’s derailment that caused toxic chemicals to spill into the Ohio village.
Before arriving in East Palestine, Biden met with first responders addressing the disaster at the Darlington Municipal Complex, just across the state line in Pennsylvania.
Biden arrived after meeting with first responders across the state line in Pennsylvania.
In East Palestine he was shown the site of the disaster and then made a speech promising that aid would remain as long as it was needed.
He reserved particular anger for Norfolk Southern, whose train derailed.
“There are acts of God,” he said. “This was a 100 percent preventable act of greed.”
The visit took him deep into Trump country, a county won by the former president with more than 70 percent of the votes cast in 2020.
Biden said none of that mattered.
“What matters is that we are all Americans, we all, everyone, take care of each other,” he said. “We leave no one behind.”