March 1, 2023

Holcomb opposes East Palestine waste coming to Indiana landfill

A view of the scene Friday, Feb. 24, 2023, as the cleanup continues at the site of of a Norfolk Southern freight train derailment that happened on Feb. 3 in East Palestine, Ohio. - AP Photo/Matt Freed

A view of the scene Friday, Feb. 24, 2023, as the cleanup continues at the site of of a Norfolk Southern freight train derailment that happened on Feb. 3 in East Palestine, Ohio.

AP Photo/Matt Freed

Toxic waste from the East Palestine, Ohio, derailment is coming to Roachdale, Indiana. And Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb doesn’t like it.

The Putnam County town of 1,000 people hosts a hazardous waste landfill that accepts waste from other states. The EPA chose the Roachdale site as a waste destination alongside three sites in Ohio.

Putnam County Commissioner David Berry expects around 2,000 tons of butyl acrylate to arrive.

Inhaling butyl acrylate can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea and vomiting.

Berry said shipments like this come to Roachdale all the time. The only thing that’s different is the high-profile situation.

“I think the reason people are upset is the way the EPA handled it at the site," Berry said. "People don’t feel like they responded quickly enough and more transparent. So now people are scared.”

Holcomb said he learned of the EPA decision third hand and tweeted, “the materials should go to the nearest facilities, not moved from the far eastern side of Ohio to the far western side of Indiana.”

Sen. Mike Braun also objected, saying any material being transferred to Indiana is concerning.

William Muno is the former director of the EPA’s Region Five Superfund program. He’s skeptical that the governor could actually prevent waste from entering Indiana.

“Hazardous waste moves throughout the country on a daily basis," Muno said. "The Commerce Clause of the Constitution doesn't permit any one state to impede lawful transportation of hazardous waste.”

The Roachdale site has been run by Heritage Environmental since 1981.

It’s an EPA licensed site and hasn’t had issues with groundwater contamination, although it did receive a violation in 2019 for not analyzing inbound waste.

Having managed disaster cleanup, Muno said the people of Roachdale shouldn’t be worried.

“I have no concern whatsoever that the Heritage Environmental services facility in Roachdale is going to be able to accept this waste and treated dispose of it properly,” he said.

Heritage Environmental said it’s providing support in accordance with a plan by the EPA and Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

The Putnam County Emergency Management Agency said it does not know when the waste would arrive.

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