East Palestine Derailment: EPA Determines Norfolk Southern Responsible, Residents File Class-Action Lawsuits
On the evening of February 3, a Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous materials derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, causing a major fire and alarm over a possible imminent explosion. Residents and businesses were evacuated, but many remain hesitant to return home, despite reassurances from officials that the air, water and soil are safe.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has identified and examined the rail car that initiated the derailment, and cited surveillance video showing an overheated wheel bearing moments before the derailment. The train contained 10 cars full of hazardous materials, including vinyl chloride, a colorless gas used in the creation of the plastic PVC. This caused hazardous chemicals to spill onto the ground and sent a plume of smoke into the air.
In response, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine requested assistance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health and Emergency Response Team, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide on-the-ground assistance in East Palestine. However, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has told DeWine that Ohio is not eligible for assistance at this time.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has sent Norfolk Southern a “General Notice of Potential Liability” letter, in which it said it had determined that the company “may be responsible under [Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act] for cleanup of the Site or costs EPA has incurred in cleaning up the Site.” After monitoring the air quality, the EPA said earlier in the week that it had not detected harmful levels of contaminants. Hundreds of homes have been monitored for air quality, and no chemicals were detected.
Residents living in and around the evacuated area have filed class-action lawsuits against Norfolk Southern, demanding money and medical monitoring. Governor DeWine said he will continue working with FEMA to determine what assistance can be provided.
The most recent updates show that the air in East Palestine is safe to breathe, and residents have been advised to drink bottled water. Despite this, locals are still questioning the potential long-term environmental impacts of the derailment.
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