Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg plans to visit East Palestine, Ohio — the scene of the fiery trail derailment and subsequent release of toxic chemicals — “when the time is right,” according to reports.
Buttigieg, who has come under fire for his delayed responses to a series of transportation incidents over the past several months — from the delayed and cancelled flights fiasco over the 2022 Christmas holiday to the trail derailment rocking the community of East Palestine — did not tell reporters exactly when he plans to visit the affected area.
“I am very interested in getting to know the residents of East Palestine, hearing from them about how they’ve been impacted and communicating with them about the steps that we’re taking,” he said, according to CNN.
While he said he plans to visit at some point, he did not say when that will occur.
“But yes, when the time is right, I do plan to visit East Palestine. I don’t have a date for you right now,” he added.
Buttigieg’s remarks come nearly three weeks after the derailment of a train carrying toxic chemicals, including vinyl chloride, along the Ohio-Pennsylvania line. According to reports, the train actually broke down on the route prior to the devastating derailment.
WATCH: Massive Inferno, Threat of “Catastrophic” Explosion After 50-Car Train Derailment:Eric Whiting/LOCAL NEWS X /TMX
According to reports, employees claim train workers were concerned about “what they believed was the train’s excessive length and weight — 151 cars, 9,300 feet long, 18,000 tons — before it reached East Palestine, which contributed to both the initial breakdown and the derailment,” per a report from CBS News.
Three days later, officials announced a “controlled release” of the toxic chemicals. Residents were evacuated from the area for days.
“The vinyl chloride contents of five rail cars are currently unstable and could potentially explode, causing deadly disbursement of shrapnel and toxic fumes,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said at the time.
“To alleviate the risk of uncontrollable shrapnel from an explosion, Norfolk Southern Railroad is planning a controlled release of the vinyl chloride at approximately 3:30 p.m. today,” he announced February 6.
WATCH: “Controlled Release” of Toxic Chemicals After East Palestine Train Derailment:Mohawk Valey Joint Fire District via Storful
Weeks later, residents are still worried about the air and water quality in the area — an area President Biden has yet to visit, opting to visit Ukraine this week instead.
According to CNN, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan will meet with East Palestine residents and officials Tuesday.
Buttigieg also told ABC’s Good Morning America that he is “planning to go” to the area but added that “our folks were on the ground from the first hours.”
“I do want to stress that the NTSB needs to be able to do its work independently,” he claimed. “But when I go the focus is going to be on action.”
Buttigieg said his visit to East Palestine will focus on “action” regarding “rail safety” to “make sure that these kinds of things don’t happen in the future.”