This will be the second time the full NTSB visits the town of about 5,000 people after holding investigative hearings there last summer.
“The NTSB is returning to East Palestine for our final board meeting for the same reasons we went last summer: Because the communities most affected by this tragedy deserve to hear our findings in-person and in real-time,” NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said.
Cleanup from the derailment is ongoing though Environmental Protection Agency officials said it may wrap up this summer if no additional contamination is found in the latest tests being conducted in the area. The government and railroad have reassured residents that their air and water are safe, but some doubt the test results because they don't think enough testing has been done.
Republican lawmakers in Congress have said they want to wait until after the final NTSB report is released before considering any rail safety reforms even though they appeared to have bipartisan support. A bill that would require federal standards for trackside detectors that spot mechanical problems, additional inspections and two-person crews on freight trains has stalled in the Senate.
The NTSB said last spring in its preliminary report that the derailment was likely caused by an overheating bearing on one of the railcars. Three detectors showed the bearing starting to heat up as the train approached East Palestine, but it didn't get hot enough to trigger an alert until it passed the final detector, and then there wasn't enough time for the crew to stop the train before it derailed.
An assortment of toxic chemicals spilled and caught fire after 38 cars piled up off the tracks. A few days later, officials decided to blow open five tank cars of vinyl chloride, which is used to make plastic, and burn the chemical because they worried the cars might explode.