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Oklahoma rejects EPA plan to transfer contaminated soil from East Palestine to hazardous waste facility

Yellow excavators and other heavy machinery work around several tanker cars on muddy ground. Smoke or steam is visible in the background.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Norfolk Southern contractors removing a burned tank car from the crash site.

Gov. Kevin Stitt tweeted that he stopped a shipment of contaminated soil from East Palestine, Ohio, to a waste disposal facility in northwestern Oklahoma.

According to an email obtained by The Frontier, the Environmental Protection Agency notified the governor’s office on Saturday that it planned to send 3,640 tons of waste to the Clean Harbors Lone Mountain facility near Waynoka.

Lone Mountain operates a landfill for hazardous materials. Since 2017, the facility has disposed of 1733 tons of industrial waste each year on average. This shipment would have contracted the facility to dispose of more than twice that much. According to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory, Lone Mountain has never handled waste from a catastrophic event like the derailment in East Palestine.

The U.S. is only home to 218 hazardous waste management facilities; Lone Mountain is one of two such facilities in Oklahoma. Since a train derailment released hundreds of thousands of pounds of harmful chemicals in East Palestine last month, the EPA has been transferring contaminated soil and water to some of these facilities.

“We know it’s far better to have it safely stored in a properly constructed and monitored disposal facility than to have it remain here any longer than necessary when there are licensed, regulated disposal facilities available that routinely dispose of similar wastes,” said EPA regional administrator Debra Shore in a press conference at the end of February.

But communities in Texas and Michigan on the receiving end of those shipments have expressed concerns over this cleanup tactic.

“There are too many unanswered questions and ultimately I made the decision that this is not in the best interest of Oklahomans,” Stitt tweeted on Sunday, saying that he worked with Oklahoma’s federal delegation to block the shipment.

Graycen Wheeler is a reporter covering water issues at KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
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