E.P.A. Orders Train Operator to Test for Dioxins in Ohio Derailment

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EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — The Environmental Protection Agency said on Thursday that it instructed the operator of the freight train that derailed near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border to test for dioxins, toxic pollutants that could have formed after officials decided to burn the train’s cargo of vinyl chloride in order to avoid the threat of an explosion.

The increased testing mandate came ahead of a meeting in East Palestine High School on Thursday that was set to be the largest public confrontation yet between the community and officials from Norfolk Southern, the railroad company, nearly one month after the derailment.

The company has faced a barrage of demands and intensifying scrutiny from lawmakers and officials furious not only over the derailment, but also the consequences of the decision to burn off some of the toxic chemicals carried by the train.

Officials at the time said it was a necessary decision given the threat of a deadly explosion from heated chemicals in the train.

Local officials thought they had a meeting set up last month with representatives from Norfolk Southern, but company officials abruptly backed out, citing unspecified fears about the safety of their employees.

And while the company’s chief executive, Alan H. Shaw, separately made a trip to meet with local officials and some railroad employees last month, a meeting in East Palestine High School on Thursday now offers several of the town’s residents the opportunity to publicly confront officials from Norfolk Southern, the operator of the freight train, about the decision to burn off the train’s chemical cargo and the possible damage done to their community.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Lisa Friedman contributed reporting.

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