Nearly three weeks after the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, that led to the release of toxic chemicals, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg is finally planning to visit the devastated town, Politico reported on Wednesday.
Buttigieg is expected to meet on Thursday with residents and members of the National Transportation Safety Board for a briefing, according to the report.
The transportation secretary’s slow response to the emergency in East Palestine has sparked bipartisan criticism of the Biden administration’s handling of the disaster. It took Buttigieg nearly two weeks to issue his first statement on the derailment, in which he attacked Republicans for criticizing his inaction on the issue.
The train derailed on Feb. 3, and authorities began releasing the substances from the train on Feb. 6 to avoid an explosion and get the tracks operable again. “We basically nuked a town with chemicals so we could get a railroad open,” Sil Caggiano, a hazardous materials specialist, told a local news outlet.
Buttigieg previously said he would visit “when the time was right,” according to Politico.
Animals as far as 20 miles away from the scene turned up dead in the days after the chemical release, and several videos have emerged of rivers and creeks in the area turning different colors.
Former president Donald Trump is visiting the town on Wednesday. East Palestine mayor Trent Conaway slammed President Joe Biden for failing to visit, saying the president “doesn’t care about” the residents.
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