Last week’s Pittsburgh news, today #27: bomb train fallout continues

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Burned vehicles at the site of the Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. Photo © K. Gerard Painter Jr. via Pittsburgh Media Partnership.

The Latest from East Palestine:

“Bronchitis and other conditions that doctors and nurses suspect are linked to chemical exposure” are showing up in residents. Aria Bendix and Alicia Victoria Lozano report for NBC News.

Pennsylvania’s DEP is testing water near the crash site, which is located less than 1 mile from the PA border. Results are expected “later this week.” Zack Hoopes reports for PennLive.

Environmental advocate Erin Brokovich visited the area and told local residents to be skeptical of official claims that things are fine. John Flesher reports for The Associated Press.

Norfolk Southern allowed a monitoring team to instruct crews to ignore alerts from train track sensors designed to flag potential mechanical problems, like the one that caused this derailment. Topher Sanders and Dan Schwartz report for ProPublica.

Allegheny Front looks back at what could have been done differently. Reid Frazier reports for Belt Magazine, via Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism.

The number of animals killed in the disaster was revised more than tenfold, from 3,500 to over 43,000. Li Cohen reports for CBS News

Records show Norfolk Southern’s “all-out push to delay and repeal train safety regulations.” Lee Fang reports for The Intercept

Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw pledged $6.5 million to those impacted by the crash. Compare that to the $7.5 billion they spent on share repurchases in the past few years. Chris Isidore reports for CNN.

And from Democracy Now!: “Calls Grow for New Laws on Rail Safety”

Last week’s Pittsburgh news

PRT CEO’s big bonus:  Pittsburgh Regional Transit CEO Katharine Eagan Kelleman received a  $53,800 bonus, on top of a 5% salary increase to her $269,000 salary.  Ed Blazina reports for the Union Progress.

Shell’s failing grade: 4 ‘F’s and 2 ‘D’s: That’s the report card given to Shell’s Beaver County plastics plant from local environmental groups. Said one local resident: “It feels like every day there’s something to be worried about at this plant.” Hannah Wyman reports for the Union Progress

Missing city social workers. Three years and $5 million later, a team of social workers designed to help city police respond to non-violent incidents has yet to launch. Andy Sheehan reports for KDKA.

Oakland’s major rezoning. Much of Oakland’s existing zoning is poised to be scrapped and replaced with “three distinct districts.” Margaret Krauss reports for WESA.  UPDATE: Council gave final approval to the changes February 28.

Northside reconnection. Pittsburgh received over $1 million to study “whether it should alter a section of Route 65 in the city’s North Side to reconnect the Chateau and Manchester neighborhoods.. Ryan Deto reports for the Trib.

DHS pledges millions. Allegheny County’s Department of Human Services has pledged $50 million to community groups to stem violence. Amelia Winger reports for PublicSource.

SportsNet Peril: Warner Bros. Discovery, the owner of AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh, wants out of the regional sports broadcasting business, which means the Penguins and Pirates could potentially be without a home broadcast network. Rob Owen reports for the Tribune-Review. 

Grad students seek union. After a close but failed attempt at organizing in 2019, in which the University of Pittsburgh was sanctioned by the NLRB for “coercive acts,” Pitt grad students again attempt to secure union representation. India Krug, Jordana Rosenfeld and Jamie Wiggan report for the City Paper.

Tartan scoop ousts pollster. After Carnegie Mellon’s student newspaper, the Tartan, reported that “Sean McElwee, the then-executive director of polling firm Data For Progress, was betting on elections,” McElwee was banned from inclusion in Nate Silver’s election prediction site FiveThirtyEight. Nathaniel Rakich and Mary Radcliffe report.

Great cougar comeback. Last week, it was weasels. Now, it’s the cougars making a comeback. Patrick Shea reports for Belt Magazine.

Piper’s Pub returns. ICYMI, we broke the news that beloved South Side Scottish pub is back, with limited weekend hours to start. Read it on the Independent.

20 years without Fred Rogers. While the Independent reported on 20 years since Operation Pipe Dreams, the Union Progress marked another somber, albeit more wholesome anniversary: 20 years since the passing of Fred Rogers, whose message of compassion and tolerance “has never been more relevant.” Joshua Axelrod reports for the Union Progress. Here’s Mr. Rogers saying goodbye to his viewers at the end of his final episode.

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He is a 2x 2023 Western PA Press Club Golden Quill award winner, in feature and business reporting. And a 3x finalist in the investigative reporting category.

He is a 2018 first prize winner in environmental reporting from the Keystone Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for reporting on lead in Pittsburgh’s drinking water.

In 2022 and 2021, he was awarded a grant from The Gumshoe Group to support his investigative reporting.