This drone photo shows the ongoing cleanup of parts of a Norfolk Southern freight train that derailed Friday night in East Palestine, Ohio, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023.
Gene J. Puskar | AP
The Environmental Protection Agency has announced extensive enforcement action against South Norfolk on Tuesday is forcing the railroad company to conduct and pay for cleanup efforts related to the Feb. 3 derailment of a train carrying toxic chemicals in East Palestine, Ohio.
“The Norfolk Southern train derailment changed the lives of East Palestine families, and the EPA order will ensure that the company is held accountable for endangering the health and safety of this community,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in remarks prepared for a news conference in East. Palestine. “To be clear: Norfolk Southern will pay to clean up the mess they created and the trauma they caused this community.”
If the company doesn’t complete any of the EPA-ordered actions, the agency will “immediately” do the necessary work and then try to get Norfolk Southern to pay triple the cost. The regulation will require the company to identify and clean up contaminated land and water; pay all EPA costs, including reimbursing the agency for cleanup services it will offer to residents and businesses; and attend public meetings at EPA’s request and post information online.
The rail company is already facing several class actions from members of the East Palestinian community over the incident, which forced residents within a roughly mile radius to evacuate their homes.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office also said it plans to take legal action against Norfolk Southern.
After a 150-car train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed through a town in eastern Ohio, Norfolk Southern released and burned the toxic chemical in the area to avoid an explosion.
On Tuesday, the Ohio Department of Health opened a clinic in East Palestine to address growing health problems among residents.
The department said in a press release Sunday that it will open the clinic in partnership with the Columbiana County Department of Health and with support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
It said the clinic would be available to East Palestinian residents “who have health questions or concerns related to the recent train derailment.”
The EPA says it began testing air quality in the East Palestine area within 24 hours of the derailment, including using a mobile analytical lab. The agency said Tuesday that it helped monitor indoor air in more than 550 homes as part of a voluntary screening program offered to residents and that “there were no detections of vinyl chloride or hydrogen chloride above levels of concern.”
Regan expressed gratitude to the emergency responders and EPA personnel on the ground in Ohio, saying the EPA will “continue to coordinate closely with our local, state and federal partners through a whole-of-government approach to support the East Palestinian community during the recovery phase.” To the people of East Palestine, the EPA stands with you now and for as long as it takes.”
Norfolk Southern did not immediately respond to a request for comment.