Holcomb pushes back against train derailment waste coming to Indiana

By: - February 28, 2023 12:37 pm

EAST PALESTINE, OH – FEBRUARY 14: Machinery is situated along rail tracks on February 14, 2023 in East Palestine, Ohio. A train operated by Norfolk Southern derailed on February 3, releasing toxic fumes and forcing evacuation of residents. (Photo by Angelo Merendino/Getty Images)

Gov. Eric Holcomb is pushing back on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) move to transport hazardous materials from the East Palestine train derailment to an Indiana facility.

“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,” he said in a statement released Tuesday.

Holcomb learned third-hand Monday that materials will be transported to a landfill in Roachdale, Indiana.

“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. I have made a request to speak to the administrator to discuss this matter. I want to know exactly what precautions will be taken in the transport and disposition of the materials.”

The Associated Press reported that the EPA announced two new hazardous waste sites will receive some of the shipments from East Palestine — an incinerator in Grafton, Ohio, and the landfill in Roachdale.

IDEM weighs in

In a statement to the Indiana Capital Chronicle, representatives with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) said they did not have regulatory authority “to prevent hazardous waste disposal facilities from accepting materials for which they are permitted to handle and dispose.”

The Roachdale landfill is operated by Heritage Environmental Services and is federally certified to handle the management of hazardous and non-hazardous solid waste. The “geologically isolated” site has about 14 million cubic yards of permitted landfill capacity, according to Heritage’s website.

“The decision to contract with Heritage Environmental Services for disposition of hazardous waste was made by Norfolk Southern, despite the fact that the Roachdale, Indiana facility is located nearly 400 miles from the train derailment site in East Palestine, Ohio,” said Barry Sneed, an IDEM spokesperson.

He added that IDEM is communicating with the EPA and local authorities in Putnam County “to determine exactly what material is being brought to Indiana, when, and in what quantities.”

The EPA did not respond to messages seeking comment Tuesday.


The EPA now is getting close to having enough certified facilities to take all of the waste from the site of the Feb. 3 derailment in East Palestine, said Debra Shore, a regional administrator with the agency. Some liquid and solid waste had already been taken to sites in Michigan and Texas, according to the Associated Press.

About 1.8 million gallons of liquid waste have been collected from the derailment site, according to the Ohio EPA.

The incident happened more than three weeks ago when 38 rail cars derailed. No one was injured but officials opted to release and burn toxic vinyl chloride from five tanker cars, sending black smoke billowing into the sky.

“I am just as shocked as Governor Holcomb and other Hoosiers to learn that the EPA is transporting hazardous materials nearly 400 miles from the East Palestine train derailment to a facility in Indiana. However, I’m not surprised to see the continued lack of communication from the administration to the American people and our state leaders about this issue,” said Ninth District Republican Congresswoman Erin Houchin.

She opposes bringing the materials through or around her district “or to our neighboring Indiana communities, particularly when we have not been given any information about safety protocols taken to protect the public.”


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Casey Smith
Casey Smith

A lifelong Hoosier, Casey Smith previously reported on the Indiana Legislature for The Associated Press. Internationally, she has reported on water quality across South America. She holds a master’s degree in investigative reporting and narrative science writing from the University of California/Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. She previously earned degrees in journalism, anthropology and Spanish from Ball State University, where she now serves as an instructor of journalism.