Justice Department Sues Norfolk Southern After Toxic Train Derailment

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

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Alexa Schwerha Contributor
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The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit Thursday against Norfolk Southern after a train derailed in early February and cast a plume of toxic chemicals over the town, the court document shows.

A Norfolk Southern train derailed on Feb. 3 carrying hazardous chemicals including vinyl chloride and a controlled burn was conducted on Feb. 6 to relieve pressure in the cars, which leaked the toxins into the air and waterways. The DOJ’s civil lawsuit claims that Norfolk Southern unlawfully polluted the nation’s waterways since the derailment led to the combustion, according to the court document. (RELATED: Ohio Sues Norfolk Southern Over Toxic Train Derailment)

Norfolk Southern would be responsible for paying the complete cost of environmental cleanup and for ensuring the safe transportation of toxic materials, according to the lawsuit. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered the train company to pay for the cost of cleanup in February, Forbes reported.

Norfolk Southern “is working toward long-term funds to benefit East Palestine,” its website, called “Making it Right in East Palestine,” reads. The company has pledged $27.8 million in community support that includes scholarships for local students, a new training center for first responders, reimbursements to the local fire department for equipment used during the derailment response, landscaping and other relief efforts.

A Norfolk Southern contractor walks away from the tracks as a train approaches on March 9, 2023 in East Palestine, Ohio.

EAST PALESTINE, OH – MARCH 09: A Norfolk Southern contractor walks away from the tracks as a train approaches on March 9, 2023 in East Palestine, Ohio. (Photo by Michael Swensen/Getty Images)

The EPA and Norfolk Southern are still conducting cleanup efforts in the small Ohio town. EPA Administrator Michael Regan said during a March 17 press conference that it would take three months to finish the cleanup and that the timeline could change.

Approximately 11,961 tons of contaminated soil have been shipped from the derailment site as well as approximately 9.2 million gallons of liquid wastewater, according to a March 29 joint update sent to the Daily Caller News Foundation. There have been 624 indoor screenings and soil samples conducted at 115 properties in both Ohio and Pennsylvania.

“EPA has reviewed preliminary data from some of the soil sampling related to the controlled burn that occurred during response actions to the train derailment in East Palestine,” the update reads. “While final results will be available in the coming weeks, EPA’s review of the preliminary data indicates levels of semi-volatile organic chemicals and dioxins in the samples are similar to typical background levels.”

Air monitoring continues at 23 locations in East Palestine and “no detections of vinyl chloride or hydrogen chloride have been identified,” according to the update.

Norfolk Southern and the DOJ did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.

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