Following plastics blaze, harmful chemicals detected in Richmond, Indiana

Read the full story at Waste Today.

An April 11 fire at a plastics trading facility has prompted 24/7 air monitoring by the EPA and evacuation within a half mile of the site.

DOJ, EPA sue Norfolk Southern over hazardous waste cleanup costs from Ohio train derailment

Read the full story at Waste Dive.

The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit on behalf of the U.S. EPA against Norfolk Southern on Friday alleging the rail company violated the Clean Water Act by discharging hazardous substances and pollutants at the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment beginning Feb. 3.

Since the derailment, the EPA estimates about 9.2 million gallons of wastewater and 12,932 tons of solid waste have been shipped off-site and is now seeking to make the rail company pay for cleanup.

“No community should have to go through what East Palestine residents have faced. With today’s action, we are once more delivering on our commitment to ensure Norfolk Southern cleans up the mess they made and pays for the damage they have inflicted as we work to ensure this community can feel safe at home again,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement announcing the suit.

We can’t let the petrochemical industry off the hook for the East Palestine disaster

Read the full story at The Hill.

I’ve worked closely with local, state and federal elected officials and senior leadership at environmental agencies for 40 years, running one of the largest environmental non-profits in Pennsylvania. In my experience, these individuals — and particularly career staff at the agency level — mostly want to do the right thing for the public interest, even if it sometimes takes some prodding, from groups like mine (including legal actions when necessary).

But after seeing the devastating environmental disaster unfolding in East Palestine, Ohio, my frustration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Ohio EPA is running high. Following the Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern train derailment and the reaction from state and federal officials, it is harder to trust the promises and assurances from those leaders responsible for protecting our communities, especially frontline communities. The only way we can responsibly move forward from this tragedy is to take full account of who is to blame and hold those actors accountable — and without question that includes the petrochemical industry.

Disaster survivors need help remaining connected with friends and families – and access to mental health care

Earthquakes, hurricanes and other disasters can cause a lot of personal upheaval. Omer Alven/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

by Daniel P. Aldrich, Northeastern University and Yunus Emre Tapan, Northeastern University

The earthquakes that struck southeastern Turkey and northern Syria in early February 2023 have killed at least 47,000 people and disrupted everyday life for some 26 million more.

Survivors of big disasters like these earthquakes – among the worst in the region’s history – certainly need food, water, medications, blankets and other goods. But they also need psychological first aid – that is, immediate mental health counseling along with support that strengthens their connections with their friends, relatives and decision-makers.

As scholars who study how disaster survivors benefit from preserving connections to people in their networks, we know that these social ties help with the recovery from traumatic events that cause significant upheaval.

But often in the rush to keep survivors fed, warm and housed, we’ve observed that the flow of support that focuses on meeting their psychological needs falls short of what’s needed.

Emergency response underway

The Turkish government agency responsible for disaster management – the AFAD – focuses strongly on the delivery of tents, medical care and physical aid. And the few nongovernmental organizations providing mental health care, such as the Maya Foundation and Turkish Psychological Association, have received less than 10% of the donations channeled through the Turkey Earthquake Relief Fund.

Many international aid groups, private companies and NGOs have launched campaigns to support search and rescue operations and response and recovery through disaster diplomacy. The United Nations invited its member states to raise US$1 billion to support aid operations. The U.S. is providing more than $100 million in aid.

All this assistance is funding emergency response efforts and humanitarian aid that largely consists of food, medicine and shelter in the area.

The Turkish government has announced it will begin building 30,000 homes in quake-hit areas in March and will give cash aid to those affected.

A group of people hug and cry amid rubble.
Hatay, Turkey, was hit hard by the February 2023 earthquakes. Ugur Yildirim/dia images via Getty Images

Psychological aspects of disasters

Research conducted after a wide variety of catastrophes has shown that mental health problems become more common after these events. Many survivors experience anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder because of everything they have been through.

One reason for this is that disasters can cut people off from their routines and sever access to the sources of emotional support they previously relied on. Often moved to emergency shelters, and away from their doctors, neighbors and friends, survivors – especially those without strong networks – regularly experience poor mental health.

Further, when there are many casualties after major disasters of any kind, families may have lost loved ones and still not have a gravesite at which they can mourn. Within seven weeks of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, for example, nearly half of the residents of New Orleans surveyed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had PTSD symptoms.

An important lesson we’ve drawn from researching what occurs after disasters is that robust social networks can soften some of the blows from these shocks. Even after someone loses a home and a sense of normalcy, staying in close touch with family and friends can minimize some of the sense of loss.

People who are pushed out of their routines but manage to remain connected to their neighbors – who are often going through the same ordeal – tend to have lower levels of PTSD and anxiety. Their friends and relatives can provide emotional support, help them stay informed, and encourage the use of mental health treatment and outside help when it’s needed.

One of us participated in a research team that surveyed nearly 600 residents of a town located near the Fukushima Daiichi power plant after the nuclear meltdowns in March 2011. More than one-fourth of these survivors of the catastrophe had PTSD symptoms. Those with strong social networks, however, generally had fewer mental health problems than other survivors with weaker connections to their friends and loved ones.

Another study of Japan’s Great Eastern Earthquake and tsunami in 2011 that one of us took part in showed that survivors of that disaster with stronger social ties recovered more rapidly and completely following a disaster.

People dressed for winter gather in a semi-outdoor space.
Syrians gather in Aleppo, in a building damaged by the February 2023 earthquake. Louai Beshara/AFP via Getty Images

4 strategies that can help

In our view, relief organizations that operate in Turkey and Syria and government aid agencies need to focus and spend more on mental health priorities. Here are four good ways to accomplish this:

  1. Include psychologists, therapists, social workers and other mental health professionals in the mix of aid workers who arrive immediately after disasters to begin group and individual therapy.
  2. Ensure that local faith-based organizations and spiritual leaders play key roles in the recovery process.
  3. Get as many public spaces, such as cafes, libraries and other gathering spots as possible, up and running again. Even virtual get-togethers using Zoom or similar software can help maintain connections with displaced friends and loved ones – as long as survivors have working cellphone service, at a minimum.
  4. Disaster recovery efforts should make communications technology a high priority. In addition to spending on food, tents, blankets, cots and medical supplies, we recommend that basic disaster aid should include access to free phone calls and Wi-Fi so that people whose lives have been upended can stay in contact with far-flung friends and loved ones.

Given the likelihood of more large-scale disasters in the future, we believe that it’s essential that relief efforts emphasize work that will strengthen the mental health and social networks of survivors.

Daniel P. Aldrich, Professor of Political Science, Public Policy and Urban Affairs and Director, Security and Resilience Program, Northeastern University and Yunus Emre Tapan, Ph.D. Student in Political Science, Northeastern University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

A Congress member’s staff sought help from EPA’s East Palestine hotline after being stonewalled by state officials

Read the full story at Grid.

Call logs of train derailment hotline reveal confusion and unheeded early warnings from scientists about dioxin risk.

‘This was an epic disaster’: Ohio sues Norfolk Southern over East Palestine train derailment

Read the full story from the Columbus Dispatch.

Ohio is suing Norfolk Southern Railway after one of its trains derailed in East Palestine with toxic chemicals on board, Attorney General Dave Yost announced Tuesday.

The 58-count lawsuit filed in federal court is the strongest rebuke of Norfolk Southern since a train spilled hazardous materials into the air, water and soil on Feb. 3, rattling the small village of 4,700 along the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. Five of the derailed cars contained vinyl chloride, which the railroad later vented and burned to prevent an explosion.

Lawmakers press for answers on hazardous waste facilities involved in Norfolk Southern derailment cleanup

Read the full story at Waste Dive.

During a Thursday Senate committee hearing, lawmakers said they want timelines and locations for sites that are handling material from East Palestine, Ohio.

EPA temporarily stops hazardous waste coming to Indiana landfill for additional testing

Read the full story in the Indianapolis Star.

Shipments of hazardous waste from the Ohio train wreck coming to Indiana have been put on pause, according to the state.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to pause shipping any further waste to an Indiana landfill until further testing can confirm there are no harmful levels of dioxins in the soil.

This news comes after at least three shipments of contaminated soil from the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio have already been delivered to the landfill outside Roachdale, Ind. — which sits about 40 miles west of Indianapolis. The hazardous waste storage facility in Putnam County is operated by Heritage Environmental Services.

Holcomb and other state officials — including U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, Attorney General Todd Rokita and Congressman Jim Baird — have expressed concerns and raised oppositions to the waste coming to Indiana. Those worries have been echoed by area residents, who have said they are uneasy about the waste coming to their community.

Global internet connectivity at risk from climate disasters

Read the full story at Climatewire.

The flow of digital information through fiber-optic cables lining the sea floor could be compromised by climate change.

That’s according to new research published in the journal Earth-Science Reviews by scientists from the United Kingdom’s National Oceanography Centre and the University of Central Florida. They found that ocean and nearshore disturbances caused by extreme weather events have exposed “hot spots” along the transglobal cable network, increasing the risk of internet outages.

Damage from such outages could be enormous for governments, the private sector and nonprofit organizations whose operations rely on the safe and secure flow of digital information.

Norfolk Southern to provide financing for temporary relocation during soil cleanup

Read the full story at The Hill.

Norfolk Southern will pay for temporary relocation for people who live within a mile of the site of a train derailment that spilled hazardous chemicals, amid ongoing cleanup efforts. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said in a Sunday update that the company will provide “additional financial assistance” that may include “ temporary lodging, travel, food, clothing, and other necessities.”