DOJ Sues Norfolk Southern Over Ohio Train Derailment

The US Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against Norfolk Southern over the train derailment last month in East Palestine, Ohio. The lawsuit seeks to ensure the company addresses the extreme environmental concerns and the full cost of cleanup of the Feb. 3 incident. 

The lawsuit filed in the US district court of Ohio on Thursday is calling for the Atlanta-based railroad operator to take responsibility for “unlawfully polluting the nation’s waterways and ensure it pays the full cost of the environmental cleanup.” It does not accuse Norfolk Southern of negligence.

The lawsuit also says that Norfolk Southern violated parts of the federal Clean Water Act and that the railroad had reduced operating costs by cutting back on inspections, repairs and crew par. 

The derailment of 38 cars, including 11 carrying hazardous materials, in East Palestine caused cars carrying toxic vinyl chloride and other hazardous chemicals to spill and catch fire. 

No deaths or injuries have been reported after the derailment, but some of East Palestine’s 4,700 residents have complained of rashes and breathing difficulties.

Additionally, investigators of the incident experienced sore throats, headaches, coughing, and nausea which was similar to the symptoms residents of East Palestine experienced after the derailment.

Federal officials have reassured residents that the area and its water are safe now, but residents continue to complain of foul smells and worry about long-term health concerns, as well as depressed home values. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is monitoring the area and testing of the soil and air is ongoing. Norfolk Southern spokesperson Connor Spielmaker said the company is working urgently on “cleaning up the site, assisting residents whose lives were impacted by the derailment and investing in the future of East Palestine and the surrounding areas.”

Republicans and Democrats who represent Ohio have pressed Norfolk Southern to implement more stringent safety precautions as they suspect an overheating wheel caused the derailment. Norfolk Southern has pledged funds for the community and school district and in an open letter on Feb. 13 said it “will stay here for as long as it takes to ensure your safety and to help East Palestine recover and thrive.”


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