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Toxic garlic should have prompted EPA to warn against gardening near Ohio derailment, watchdog says

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Toxic garlic should have prompted EPA to warn against gardening near Ohio derailment, watchdog says
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Toxic garlic should have prompted EPA to warn against gardening near Ohio derailment, watchdog says

2024-06-14 05:33 Last Updated At:05:42

The Environmental Protection Agency should conduct additional soil studies near the site of a toxic train derailment in Ohio and warn people it might not be safe to garden there after independent testing showed high levels of chemicals in locally grown garlic, a watchdog group said Thursday.

In a petition filed with the federal agency, the nonprofit Government Accountability Project argues that the EPA should have already followed up on the tests of gardens and crops in the city where the Norfolk Southern derailment took place.

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This photo taken with a drone shows the continuing cleanup of portions of a Norfolk Southern freight train that derailed Friday night in East Palestine, Ohio, Feb. 9, 2023. A watchdog group says the Environmental Protection Agency should have conducted additional soil studies around the site of the derailment and tested garden crops after independent testing found high levels of chemicals in locally grown garlic. The Government Accountability Project filed a formal petition on Thursday, June 13, with the EPA. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, file)

The Environmental Protection Agency should conduct additional soil studies near the site of a toxic train derailment in Ohio and warn people it might not be safe to garden there after independent testing showed high levels of chemicals in locally grown garlic, a watchdog group said Thursday.

FILE - A black plume rises over East Palestine, Ohio, as a result of a controlled detonation of a portion of the derailed Norfolk Southern trains, Feb. 6, 2023. A watchdog group says the Environmental Protection Agency should have conducted additional soil studies around the site of the derailment and tested garden crops after independent testing found high levels of chemicals in locally grown garlic. The Government Accountability Project filed a formal petition on Thursday, June 13, 2024 with the EPA. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, file)

FILE - A black plume rises over East Palestine, Ohio, as a result of a controlled detonation of a portion of the derailed Norfolk Southern trains, Feb. 6, 2023. A watchdog group says the Environmental Protection Agency should have conducted additional soil studies around the site of the derailment and tested garden crops after independent testing found high levels of chemicals in locally grown garlic. The Government Accountability Project filed a formal petition on Thursday, June 13, 2024 with the EPA. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, file)

CORRECTS NAME SPELLING TO FIGLEY NOT FINLEY East Palestine, Ohio resident Marilyn Figley works in her garden on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Figley planted a garden in 2024 after the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train near her home, using one of her husband's tractors to remove the top three inches of soil and replace with fresh dirt. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

CORRECTS NAME SPELLING TO FIGLEY NOT FINLEY East Palestine, Ohio resident Marilyn Figley works in her garden on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Figley planted a garden in 2024 after the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train near her home, using one of her husband's tractors to remove the top three inches of soil and replace with fresh dirt. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

CORRECTS NAME SPELLING TO FIGLEY NOT FINLEY East Palestine, Ohio resident Marilyn Figley, right, talks with Scott Smith, in her garden on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Figley planted a garden in 2024 after the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train near her home, using one of her husband's tractors to remove the top three inches of soil and replace with fresh dirt. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

CORRECTS NAME SPELLING TO FIGLEY NOT FINLEY East Palestine, Ohio resident Marilyn Figley, right, talks with Scott Smith, in her garden on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Figley planted a garden in 2024 after the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train near her home, using one of her husband's tractors to remove the top three inches of soil and replace with fresh dirt. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

FILE - A black plume rises over East Palestine, Ohio, as a result of the controlled detonation of a portion of the derailed Norfolk Southern trains, Feb. 6, 2023. The Internal Revenue Service decided Wednesday, June 5, 2024, that most people who received money from Norfolk Southern in the wake of the train derailment won't have to pay taxes on millions of dollars in aid payments. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

FILE - A black plume rises over East Palestine, Ohio, as a result of the controlled detonation of a portion of the derailed Norfolk Southern trains, Feb. 6, 2023. The Internal Revenue Service decided Wednesday, June 5, 2024, that most people who received money from Norfolk Southern in the wake of the train derailment won't have to pay taxes on millions of dollars in aid payments. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

FILE - Debris from a Norfolk Southern freight train lies scattered and burning along the tracks, Feb. 4, 2023, the day after it derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. The Internal Revenue Service decided Wednesday, June 5, 2024, that most people who received money from Norfolk Southern in the wake of the train derailment won't have to pay taxes on millions of dollars in aid payments. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

FILE - Debris from a Norfolk Southern freight train lies scattered and burning along the tracks, Feb. 4, 2023, the day after it derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. The Internal Revenue Service decided Wednesday, June 5, 2024, that most people who received money from Norfolk Southern in the wake of the train derailment won't have to pay taxes on millions of dollars in aid payments. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

FILE - A sign reads "Keep Out Testing & Cleaning in Progress" near the Sulphur Run Creek as it flows under homes in East Palestine, Ohio, on Jan. 30, 2024. The Internal Revenue Service decided Wednesday, June 5, 2024, that most people who received money from Norfolk Southern in the wake of the train derailment won't have to pay taxes on millions of dollars in aid payments. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

FILE - A sign reads "Keep Out Testing & Cleaning in Progress" near the Sulphur Run Creek as it flows under homes in East Palestine, Ohio, on Jan. 30, 2024. The Internal Revenue Service decided Wednesday, June 5, 2024, that most people who received money from Norfolk Southern in the wake of the train derailment won't have to pay taxes on millions of dollars in aid payments. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

Scott Smith, right, whose testing in East Palestine, Ohio, has been cited in a petition by the Government; Accountability Project, talks with Tamara Lynn Freeze, left, after taking samples of onions from her garden behind her East Palestine, Ohio home on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Freeze lives across the street from the site of the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train on Feb. 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Scott Smith, right, whose testing in East Palestine, Ohio, has been cited in a petition by the Government; Accountability Project, talks with Tamara Lynn Freeze, left, after taking samples of onions from her garden behind her East Palestine, Ohio home on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Freeze lives across the street from the site of the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train on Feb. 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

East Palestine, Ohio, resident Marilyn Finley works in her garden on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Finley did not plant a garden last year after the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train near her home. She decided to plant a garden this year after using one of her husband's tractors to remove the top three inches of soil and replace that with fresh dirt. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

East Palestine, Ohio, resident Marilyn Finley works in her garden on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Finley did not plant a garden last year after the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train near her home. She decided to plant a garden this year after using one of her husband's tractors to remove the top three inches of soil and replace that with fresh dirt. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Scott Smith, whose testing in East Palestine, Ohio, has been sited in a petition by the Government; Accountability Project, tests onions grown in the garden of Tamara Lynn Freeze in East Palestine, Ohio, on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Freeze, lives across the street from the site of the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train earlier this year.. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Scott Smith, whose testing in East Palestine, Ohio, has been sited in a petition by the Government; Accountability Project, tests onions grown in the garden of Tamara Lynn Freeze in East Palestine, Ohio, on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Freeze, lives across the street from the site of the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train earlier this year.. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

East Palestine, Ohio, resident Marilyn Finley, right, talks with Scott Smith, in her garden on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Finley did not plant a garden last year after the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train near her home. She decided to plant a garden this year after using one of her husband's tractors to remove the top three inches of soil and replace that with fresh dirt. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

East Palestine, Ohio, resident Marilyn Finley, right, talks with Scott Smith, in her garden on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Finley did not plant a garden last year after the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train near her home. She decided to plant a garden this year after using one of her husband's tractors to remove the top three inches of soil and replace that with fresh dirt. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

“It is unconscionable that the EPA has not conducted its own testing on garden crops in East Palestine, nor have they sampled for dioxins in the home produce," the nonprofit group's senior environmental officer, Lesley Pacey, told The Associated Press in advance of the petition filing. “Yet, the EPA has told residents to garden and eat home produce as usual.”

The Associated Press sent emails to EPA officials seeking comment about the petition Thursday.

The agency has been telling people it’s safe to garden since nearly three months after the February 2023 derailment, based on tests conducted by state agriculture officials at 31 locations around town and on surrounding farms. The officials tested winter wheat, malting barley, pasture grasses and rye from area farms.

“Residential soil sampling results are within typical ranges for the area, and garden plants are generally considered safe to eat,” the EPA said to the community.

In the past, agency officials have dismissed the independent tests cited by the Government Accountability Project, pointing to their concerns with quality control. The tests were performed by Scott Smith, a businessman and inventor who, since his own factory was inundated by tainted floodwaters in 2006, has been on a crusade to help communities affected by chemical disasters.

EPA officials say they can’t tell if his data is valid without reviewing all of the reports detailing his methodology and results. Smith offered last summer to share his files with the agency but only if it would share its information with him. They never reached an agreement.

The EPA has said that previous testing conducted by contractors hired by the railroad did not show high levels of dioxins or other chemicals outside the train derailment site after the initial evacuation order was lifted, and therefore, additional tests in individual yards and gardens weren't needed.

The only place the EPA reported finding high levels of cancer-causing dioxins was in the area immediately around the derailment about two weeks after the crash. That soil was included in the nearly 179,000 tons (71,668 metric tons) of material dug up and disposed of last year.

But some residents aren't taking any chances.

Marilyn Figley didn’t dare plant a garden last year after the derailment even though she and her husband do everything they can to be self-sufficient, including gardening and raising chickens for meat and eggs. She did harvest some garlic after the derailment that she had planted previously, however. Some of it had levels of dioxins more than 500 times higher than a sample of garlic grown and harvested from someone else’s yard the year before the derailment, according to Smith’s tests.

Figley said they decided to plant a garden again this year after using one of her husband's tractors to remove the top 3 inches (8 centimeters) of soil and replace that with fresh dirt.

“I’d rather eat dioxins than die of starvation I guess," Figley said. "I’m pretty worried, but what can you do?”

Dioxins have been a key concern for East Palestine residents ever since officials decided to blow open five tank cars of the derailed train and burn the vinyl chloride contained within them. The chemical is used to make a variety of plastic products, including pipes, wire and packaging materials, and is found in polyvinyl chloride plastic, better known as PVC. Thousands of residents had to evacuate their homes temporarily after the derailment and during the venting and burning of the vinyl chloride, which sent an enormous toxic plume of black smoke over the town.

Last summer, the local farmers market made a point of bringing in produce from several states away because of all the worries about anything grown in the area.

“I certainly didn't eat anybody's tomatoes or cucumbers,” said Tamara Lynn Freeze, whose freshly grown garlic was also tested by Smith and showed dioxin levels five times higher than what was found in garlic she still had sitting in her garage from a year before the derailment.

Freeze says she developed a chronic sinus infection and joint pain after the derailment — symptoms that seem to ease any time she's away from the area for more than a few hours.

Smith has visited East Palestine more than two dozen times since the derailment to test soil and water for dioxins and other chemicals. He is not a scientist by training but has traveled to chemical disaster sites for years. His testing is reviewed by a team of scientific advisers, including a former top Ohio EPA expert, and he sends all his samples to a laboratory that the EPA and others agree is reputable.

Smith is also an inventor and holds 25 patents, including for a specialized foam that repels water and absorbs oil, which he developed at his former company, Cellect Technologies. He has offered to sell the product in some of the affected communities he has visited, but he says he isn't making a profit on his work in East Palestine.

Smith got his start with disasters when floodwater contaminated with chemicals swept into a Cellect factory, destroying equipment and forcing the business to shut down for months. Since then, he has conducted investigations of dozens of environmental and health emergencies, including the BP Gulf oil spill and the Flint, Michigan, lead water crisis.

In Flint, some of Smith's results were used by a nonprofit group affiliated with actor Mark Ruffalo that questioned whether it was safe to bathe in the city's water. Smith's actions put him in conflict with scientists who were conducting their own tests and with EPA Response Coordinator Mark Durno, the same agency representative overseeing the cleanup in East Palestine.

Despite their disagreements, Durno did remark that Smith “certainly understands how to use appropriate laboratories both for the chemical work that he’s doing and the biological work that he is doing.”

“From that perspective, he seems qualified to collect samples and collect and share data,” Durno said in a video interview he gave for an unfinished documentary about Smith’s work.

But in East Palestine, Durno has consistently questioned the quality of Smith's testing. Since last summer, he has refused to meet with him or test alongside him because he believes the EPA's testing plan already gives an objective, valid sense of the level of contamination existing in the community. He added that testing in individual locations in town, as Smith is doing, won't produce useful data if it isn't part of a larger sampling plan.

Smith said he has applied the lessons of Flint by making sure that his scientific advisers review all his data before he releases it himself directly to the public.

He argues that even if his test results aren’t perfect, they should prompt additional investigation by the EPA.

“I’m basically calling for more testing," Smith said. "I’m not trying to incite more panic. My point is it’d be very easy for the EPA to just test the garlic and report it. We can find no evidence they ever tested garden crops from residents.”

This photo taken with a drone shows the continuing cleanup of portions of a Norfolk Southern freight train that derailed Friday night in East Palestine, Ohio, Feb. 9, 2023. A watchdog group says the Environmental Protection Agency should have conducted additional soil studies around the site of the derailment and tested garden crops after independent testing found high levels of chemicals in locally grown garlic. The Government Accountability Project filed a formal petition on Thursday, June 13, with the EPA. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, file)

This photo taken with a drone shows the continuing cleanup of portions of a Norfolk Southern freight train that derailed Friday night in East Palestine, Ohio, Feb. 9, 2023. A watchdog group says the Environmental Protection Agency should have conducted additional soil studies around the site of the derailment and tested garden crops after independent testing found high levels of chemicals in locally grown garlic. The Government Accountability Project filed a formal petition on Thursday, June 13, with the EPA. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, file)

FILE - A black plume rises over East Palestine, Ohio, as a result of a controlled detonation of a portion of the derailed Norfolk Southern trains, Feb. 6, 2023. A watchdog group says the Environmental Protection Agency should have conducted additional soil studies around the site of the derailment and tested garden crops after independent testing found high levels of chemicals in locally grown garlic. The Government Accountability Project filed a formal petition on Thursday, June 13, 2024 with the EPA. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, file)

FILE - A black plume rises over East Palestine, Ohio, as a result of a controlled detonation of a portion of the derailed Norfolk Southern trains, Feb. 6, 2023. A watchdog group says the Environmental Protection Agency should have conducted additional soil studies around the site of the derailment and tested garden crops after independent testing found high levels of chemicals in locally grown garlic. The Government Accountability Project filed a formal petition on Thursday, June 13, 2024 with the EPA. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, file)

CORRECTS NAME SPELLING TO FIGLEY NOT FINLEY East Palestine, Ohio resident Marilyn Figley works in her garden on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Figley planted a garden in 2024 after the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train near her home, using one of her husband's tractors to remove the top three inches of soil and replace with fresh dirt. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

CORRECTS NAME SPELLING TO FIGLEY NOT FINLEY East Palestine, Ohio resident Marilyn Figley works in her garden on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Figley planted a garden in 2024 after the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train near her home, using one of her husband's tractors to remove the top three inches of soil and replace with fresh dirt. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

CORRECTS NAME SPELLING TO FIGLEY NOT FINLEY East Palestine, Ohio resident Marilyn Figley, right, talks with Scott Smith, in her garden on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Figley planted a garden in 2024 after the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train near her home, using one of her husband's tractors to remove the top three inches of soil and replace with fresh dirt. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

CORRECTS NAME SPELLING TO FIGLEY NOT FINLEY East Palestine, Ohio resident Marilyn Figley, right, talks with Scott Smith, in her garden on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Figley planted a garden in 2024 after the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train near her home, using one of her husband's tractors to remove the top three inches of soil and replace with fresh dirt. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

FILE - A black plume rises over East Palestine, Ohio, as a result of the controlled detonation of a portion of the derailed Norfolk Southern trains, Feb. 6, 2023. The Internal Revenue Service decided Wednesday, June 5, 2024, that most people who received money from Norfolk Southern in the wake of the train derailment won't have to pay taxes on millions of dollars in aid payments. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

FILE - A black plume rises over East Palestine, Ohio, as a result of the controlled detonation of a portion of the derailed Norfolk Southern trains, Feb. 6, 2023. The Internal Revenue Service decided Wednesday, June 5, 2024, that most people who received money from Norfolk Southern in the wake of the train derailment won't have to pay taxes on millions of dollars in aid payments. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

FILE - Debris from a Norfolk Southern freight train lies scattered and burning along the tracks, Feb. 4, 2023, the day after it derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. The Internal Revenue Service decided Wednesday, June 5, 2024, that most people who received money from Norfolk Southern in the wake of the train derailment won't have to pay taxes on millions of dollars in aid payments. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

FILE - Debris from a Norfolk Southern freight train lies scattered and burning along the tracks, Feb. 4, 2023, the day after it derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. The Internal Revenue Service decided Wednesday, June 5, 2024, that most people who received money from Norfolk Southern in the wake of the train derailment won't have to pay taxes on millions of dollars in aid payments. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

FILE - A sign reads "Keep Out Testing & Cleaning in Progress" near the Sulphur Run Creek as it flows under homes in East Palestine, Ohio, on Jan. 30, 2024. The Internal Revenue Service decided Wednesday, June 5, 2024, that most people who received money from Norfolk Southern in the wake of the train derailment won't have to pay taxes on millions of dollars in aid payments. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

FILE - A sign reads "Keep Out Testing & Cleaning in Progress" near the Sulphur Run Creek as it flows under homes in East Palestine, Ohio, on Jan. 30, 2024. The Internal Revenue Service decided Wednesday, June 5, 2024, that most people who received money from Norfolk Southern in the wake of the train derailment won't have to pay taxes on millions of dollars in aid payments. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

Scott Smith, right, whose testing in East Palestine, Ohio, has been cited in a petition by the Government; Accountability Project, talks with Tamara Lynn Freeze, left, after taking samples of onions from her garden behind her East Palestine, Ohio home on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Freeze lives across the street from the site of the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train on Feb. 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Scott Smith, right, whose testing in East Palestine, Ohio, has been cited in a petition by the Government; Accountability Project, talks with Tamara Lynn Freeze, left, after taking samples of onions from her garden behind her East Palestine, Ohio home on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Freeze lives across the street from the site of the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train on Feb. 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

East Palestine, Ohio, resident Marilyn Finley works in her garden on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Finley did not plant a garden last year after the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train near her home. She decided to plant a garden this year after using one of her husband's tractors to remove the top three inches of soil and replace that with fresh dirt. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

East Palestine, Ohio, resident Marilyn Finley works in her garden on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Finley did not plant a garden last year after the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train near her home. She decided to plant a garden this year after using one of her husband's tractors to remove the top three inches of soil and replace that with fresh dirt. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Scott Smith, whose testing in East Palestine, Ohio, has been sited in a petition by the Government; Accountability Project, tests onions grown in the garden of Tamara Lynn Freeze in East Palestine, Ohio, on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Freeze, lives across the street from the site of the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train earlier this year.. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Scott Smith, whose testing in East Palestine, Ohio, has been sited in a petition by the Government; Accountability Project, tests onions grown in the garden of Tamara Lynn Freeze in East Palestine, Ohio, on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Freeze, lives across the street from the site of the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train earlier this year.. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

East Palestine, Ohio, resident Marilyn Finley, right, talks with Scott Smith, in her garden on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Finley did not plant a garden last year after the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train near her home. She decided to plant a garden this year after using one of her husband's tractors to remove the top three inches of soil and replace that with fresh dirt. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

East Palestine, Ohio, resident Marilyn Finley, right, talks with Scott Smith, in her garden on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Finley did not plant a garden last year after the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train near her home. She decided to plant a garden this year after using one of her husband's tractors to remove the top three inches of soil and replace that with fresh dirt. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

PLAINFIELD, Vt. (AP) — Vermont is seeking an assessment to determine whether last week’s flooding, which damaged homes, knocked down bridges and washed out roads, qualifies for a federal disaster declaration and aid.

The flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Beryl happened a year after the state experienced catastrophic flooding that left some victims still awaiting home buyouts or repairs.

“We know this storm has done tremendous damage in many communities, and those impacted will need help to recover," Gov. Phil Scott said in a statement Saturday. “That’s why it’s so critical for Vermonters to report their damage to help us demonstrate the need for these federal resources.”

Two people were killed by the flooding, including a motorist in Lyndonville and a man who was riding an all-terrain vehicle in Peacham, authorities said.

Some of the hardest-hit riverside communities were Barre, Hardwick, Lyndonville, Moretown and Plainfield, but the estimated $15 million in damage to roads and other public infrastructure was more widespread. Damage assessments will be done in eight of Vermont's 14 counties. A public assistance disaster declaration would provide 75% reimbursement to communities for responding to and repairing public infrastructure damaged by the storm, the governor said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency must verify at least $1.1 million in response and public infrastructure recovery costs for the state to qualify for a major disaster declaration, according to Scott. For counties to qualify, they must show damages of $4.60 per capita, Scott's office said.

An individual assistance declaration would give some financial assistance to homeowners and renters for property losses, the governor said. They are encouraged to report property losses by calling 211 or visiting www.vermont211.org.

Even though Vermont is an inland state, it's suffered damage from tropical storm systems. In 2011, Tropical Storm Irene dumped 11 inches (28 centimeters) of rain on parts of the state in 24 hours. The storm killed six in the state, washed homes off their foundations and damaged or destroyed more than 200 bridges and 500 miles (800 kilometers) of highway.

In May, Vermont became the first state to enact a law requiring fossil fuel companies to pay a share of the damage caused by extreme weather fanned by climate change. But officials acknowledged last week that collecting any money will depend on litigation against a much-better-resourced oil industry.

Signs are displayed outside the town hall, Sunday, July 14, 2024, in Plainfield, Vt., a community that had some of the worst damage in last week's flooding. (AP Photo/Lisa Rathke)

Signs are displayed outside the town hall, Sunday, July 14, 2024, in Plainfield, Vt., a community that had some of the worst damage in last week's flooding. (AP Photo/Lisa Rathke)

FILE - The remains of an eight unit apartment building that locals call the Heartbreak Hotel are in Plainfield, Vermont, on July 12, 2024, after flood waters and debris caused by the aftermath of Hurricane Beryl pulled several of the apartments into the Great Brook waterway. Vermont is seeking a federal assessment to determine whether last week’s flooding, which damaged homes, knocked out bridges and washed out roads, qualifies for a federal disaster declaration and aid. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey, file)

FILE - The remains of an eight unit apartment building that locals call the Heartbreak Hotel are in Plainfield, Vermont, on July 12, 2024, after flood waters and debris caused by the aftermath of Hurricane Beryl pulled several of the apartments into the Great Brook waterway. Vermont is seeking a federal assessment to determine whether last week’s flooding, which damaged homes, knocked out bridges and washed out roads, qualifies for a federal disaster declaration and aid. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey, file)

FILE - An overwhelmed residents surveys the damage following flooding caused by the remnants of Hurricane Beryl, July 11, 2024, in Plainfield, Vt. Vermont is seeking a federal assessment to determine whether last week’s flooding, which damaged homes, knocked out bridges and washed out roads, qualifies for a federal disaster declaration and aid. (AP Photo/Dmitry Belyakov, file)

FILE - An overwhelmed residents surveys the damage following flooding caused by the remnants of Hurricane Beryl, July 11, 2024, in Plainfield, Vt. Vermont is seeking a federal assessment to determine whether last week’s flooding, which damaged homes, knocked out bridges and washed out roads, qualifies for a federal disaster declaration and aid. (AP Photo/Dmitry Belyakov, file)

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