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A whistleblower raised concerns about delays and errors in how the EPA utilized a sensor plane following a fiery derailment in Ohio

A black plume (Via Tom Wilson/Shutterstock)

The U.S. government owns a special plane equipped with advanced sensors that officials say can be deployed within an hour of any chemical disaster. However, after a major Norfolk Southern train derailment in eastern Ohio last year, the plane did not fly over the area until four days later.

According to a whistleblower who spoke with The Associated Press, the EPA’s ASPECT plane could have provided critical information about the chemicals released into the air around East Palestine while the wreckage burned and residents were evacuated from their homes.

The whistleblower, Robert Kroutil, who developed the software and helped analyze data from the plane’s advanced radiological and infrared sensors, stated that the plane could have also helped officials determine that it was unnecessary to vent and burn five tank cars containing vinyl chloride.

Part of Norfolk Southern freight train derailed (Via Tom Wilson/Shutterstock)

He explained that the plane’s sensors could have accurately measured the temperature of the tank cars, which was difficult for ground responders to assess safely.

Kroutil mentioned that the single-engine Cessna cargo plane did not fly over the crash site until the day after the controversial vent-and-burn operation, which caused a large plume of black smoke over the Ohio-Pennsylvania border area.

Even when the plane did eventually fly, Kroutil said it collected only incomplete data. Later on, after recognizing the deficiencies of the mission, officials reportedly asked Kroutil’s company, Kalman & Company, to create flight plans retroactively to make the mission look better in case of public records requests.

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