Norfolk Southern to Pay $300M+ for Toxic Train Derailment Cleanup: Details Inside

May 27, 2024
2 mins read
The freight train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, U.S.( Photo Credit: National Transportation Safety Board )
The freight train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, U.S.( Photo Credit: National Transportation Safety Board )

On February 3, 2023, tranquility in East Palestine, Ohio, was shattered when a train carrying hazardous materials derailed, causing a fire that lasted an entire day. The accident released toxic gases into the air, contaminated the soil, and forced residents to leave their homes.

More than a year later, the American railroad company Norfolk Southern will pay over $300 million in compensation for the damages caused by the derailment of a train carrying toxic material. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced this Thursday the agreement reached with the company, which forces it to pay for monitoring the health status of the communities affected by the spill, as well as taking concrete measures to improve railway safety. Most of the funds Norfolk Southern will provide, about $235 million, will be used to cover the cleanup of the area where chemicals were spilled after the derailment in February 2023, detailed the EPA in a statement.

“Today’s enforcement action delivers on this commitment, ensures the cleanup is paid for by the company, and helps prevent another disaster like this from happening again.Because of this settlement, residents and first responders will have greater access to health services, trains will be safer and waterways will be cleaner,” said the EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan in the statement.

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The agreement stems from a lawsuit that the Department of Justice and the EPA filed against Norfolk Southern in March 2023 for the environmental damage caused by the derailment. Last April, the railroad company agreed to pay another $600 million to avoid going to trial in a class-action lawsuit filed by East Palestine residents.

“From day one, it was important for Norfolk Southern to make things right for the residents of East Palestine and the surrounding areas,” clarified Alan H. Shaw, president and CEO of Norfolk Southern. “We are pleased we were able to reach a timely resolution of these investigations that recognizes our comprehensive response to the community’s needs and our mission to be the gold standard of safety in the rail industry. We will continue keeping our promises and are invested in the community’s future for the long-haul,” he reiterated. 

The train derailment occurred on February 3 when it was passing through that town of fewer than 5,000 inhabitants, located 60 kilometers from the industrial city of Pittsburgh, near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. Half of the residents of East Palestine had to be urgently evacuated. Officials seeking to avoid the danger of an uncontrolled explosion opted to intentionally release and burn toxic vinyl chloride from five train cars, causing flames and black smoke to rise back into the sky.

The scene left people questioning the potential health impacts on residents in the area and beyond, even as authorities maintained that they were doing everything possible to protect people. Vinyl chloride is associated with an increased risk of certain types of cancer, and officials warned at the time that burning it would release two concerning gases. Nevertheless, environmental officials said that monitors detected toxins in the air at the site during the controlled burn and that officials kept people away until they dissipated.

Govind Tekale

Embarking on a new journey post-retirement, Govind, once a dedicated teacher, has transformed his enduring passion for current affairs and general knowledge into a conduit for expression through writing. His historical love affair with reading, which borders on addiction, has evolved into a medium to articulate his thoughts and disseminate vital information. Govind pens down his insights on a myriad of crucial topics, including the environment, wildlife, energy, sustainability, and health, weaving through every aspect that is quintessential for both our existence and that of our planet. His writings not only mirror his profound understanding and curiosity but also serve as a valuable resource, offering a deep dive into issues that are critical to our collective future and well-being.

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