Speed Reads

We'll Take It From Here

EPA takes control of East Palestine derailment, orders Norfolk Southern to pay for cleanup

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday that it would be taking control of the cleanup of an East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment. The agency additionally ordered rail operator Norfolk Southern to pay for all associated costs. 

In a press release, the EPA said it had issued a legally binding order requiring Norfolk Southern to "identify and clean up contaminated soil and water resources," and would also have to reimburse the agency "for cleaning services to be offered to residents and businesses to provide an additional layer of reassurance, which will be conducted by EPA staff and contractors."

The environmental hazard stems from the Feb. 3 derailment of a Norfolk Southern freight train. The train was carrying numerous hazardous materials, including vinyl chloride. "This particularly dangerous and increasingly common" chemical, The New York Times reports, is toxic, highly flammable, and is "known to cause liver cancer in highly exposed industrial workers."

As the cleanup began, residents of East Palestine were forced to evacuate the town. While most have since returned, CNN reports that numerous health problems are being seen, "from rashes to nausea to trouble breathing."

Norfolk Southern had previously committed to paying for the cost of the cleanup, even as the Biden administration said it was considering civil penalties for the accident. In a statement sent to Bloombergthe company said it was "committed to thoroughly and safely cleaning the site," while "reimbursing residents for the disruption this has caused in their lives."

However, it seems officials did not buy Norfolk Southern's promise. At a press conference Tuesday, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) — whose state's border is located just a mile from East Palestine — stood with Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R), along with EPA officials, and pledged to continue holding the company accountable.