Buttigieg Bemoans Lack of Racial Diversity in Construction, Fails to Mention Ohio Train Disaster

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has still not mentioned the massive train derailment that rocked East Palestine, Ohio, earlier this month, even though environmental disaster has potentially sparked an ecological/health crisis impacting more than 300,000 people in the area.

Some members of Congress are demanding a response from the secretary, who appeared at a conference on Monday, but failed to address the situation.

“Time to call in @PeteButtigieg for questioning for what is happened to the great people of Ohio train derailment & toxic chemical spill!” wrote Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.)

“Where is Pete Buttigieg?” tweeted Rep. Maya Flores (R-Texas).

Roughly 50 cars—many of them containing hazardous chemicals—derailed off of a Norfolk Southern freight train on February 3, causing a fire with smoke so thick it could reportedly be seen on the weather radar.

Local authorities conducted a controlled release of the dangerous chemicals to mitigate the risk of an explosion last week, and all residents within one mile of the crash site were evacuated.

The controlled burn “sent phosgene, a highly poisonous gas used as a weapon in World War I, into the surrounding area,” Fox News reported.

Residents were allowed to return to their homes on February 8, although many in the community believe the area is still unsafe due to the toxic chemicals potentially still present in the area.

Scott Deutsch of the Norfolk Southern Railway however said he was “very pleased” with the result of the controlled burn. “The detonation went perfect and we’re already to a point where the cars are safe,” Deutsch said. “They were not safe prior to this (controlled release).”

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official James Justice said the agency’s air-monitoring tests did not show any toxic threats.

According to a list of the chemicals released by the EPA, five of the cars contained vinyl chloride, a carcinogen; one car contained ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, a highly combustible liquid; one car contained isobutylene, a flammable gas, one car contained ethylhexyl acrylate, a combustible liquid; one care contained butyl acrylates, a highly flammable clear liquid, and two cars contained benzene, another highly flammable chemical.


The cars containing vinyl chloride leaked boiling liquid into the ground and spewed poisonous gas into the atmosphere, according to an engineer who studies industrial accidents.  The expert said a biproduct of vinyl chloride burning is hydrogen chloride—which can turn into hydrochloric acid and be extremely toxic to humans.


University of Toledo environmental engineering professor Ashok Kumar told ABC News that inhaling vinyl chloride fumes “can induce dizziness, nausea, headache, and breathing complications.”

Long term, the chemical can cause cancer of the liver and other organs, said Professor Kevin Crist, the director of Ohio University’s Air Quality Center.

“Being exposed to vinyl chloride can affect a person’s liver, kidney, lung, spleen, nervous system and blood,” Crist told ABC. “People exposed to [extremely high] levels … may have an increased risk of miscarriage and birth defects. Damage to male sperm-producing organs has occurred in laboratory animals.”

Residents report that their pets and livestock are getting sick and dying in the area. There are also reports that dead fish have been observed in bodies of water near the site.

Contaminants have reportedly reached the Ohio River and are dispersing to other parts of the country, although officials say they don’t anticipate any danger to local residents.

“Based on the current data, we do not believe the spill on the Ohio River in northeast Ohio poses a risk to the quality of our drinking water,” the Louisville Water Co. said in a statement. “Your water is safe to drink.”

“Our best friend is the river itself,” said Chris Bobay, water quality manager for Louisville Water Co., during a news conference on Monday. Bobay added that the river tends to “handle its own problems,” and that chemicals will be heavily diluted by the time they make their way to Louisville’s banks.

This comes after Norfolk Southern allegedly helped convince government officials to repeal brake rules and corporate lobbyists fought for watered down hazmat safety regulations, the Lever reported. The train had 141 cars total, and was nearly 1.8 miles long.

In a speech before the National Association of Counties Conference Monday morning,  Buttigieg failed to mention the train derailment, although he did address an alleged lack of racial diversity in the construction business.

“We have heard way too many stories from generations past of infrastructure where you got a neighborhood, often a neighborhood of color, that finally sees the project come to them, but everyone in the hard hats on that project, doing the good paying jobs, don’t look like they came from anywhere near the neighborhood,” Buttigieg said.

Buttigieg did tell the audience that it is “an exciting time for transportation,” with challenges like “container shipping to airline cancellations, now we got balloons.”

While there appears to be no interest in investigating the toxic train derailment in Ohio, the U.S. Department of Transportation  announced on Thursday “it is investigating Elon Musk’s brain-implant company Neuralink over the potentially illegal movement of hazardous pathogens,” NBC News reported.

A Department of Transportation spokesperson told Reuters about the probe after the Physicians Committee of Responsible Medicine (PCRM), an animal-welfare advocacy group, wrote to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg earlier on Thursday to alert it of records it obtained on the matter.

PCRM said it obtained emails and other documents that suggest unsafe packaging and movement of implants removed from the brains of monkeys. These implants may have carried infectious diseases in violation of federal law, PCRM said.

A DoT spokesperson said the agency takes the allegations “very seriously.”


Buttigieg put out his first statement on the East Palestine derailment late Monday, saying he “continues to be concerned about the impacts.”


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About Debra Heine

Debra Heine is a conservative Catholic mom of six and longtime political pundit. She has written for several conservative news websites over the years, including Breitbart and PJ Media.

Photo: UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 13: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaks during The National Association of Counties (NACo) 2023 Legislative Conference at the Washington Hilton on Monday, February 13, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)