The Norfolk Southern railroad company will pay the entire cost of the cleanup of a toxic train derailment in the midwestern state of Ohio, the US government ordered on Tuesday.
Michael Regan, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said in a statement that the railroad company will cover all the expenses for cleaning up the mess they created and for the trauma they’ve inflicted on the community where several thousand residents were evacuated while authorities assessed the danger.
Regan stressed that the February 3 derailment of the Norfolk Southern train with 150 cars has upended the lives of the families in the town of East Palestine after it sparked a massive fire, triggering the release of toxic fumes.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, 11 of the 38 derailed cars were carrying hazardous materials, including vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate, and other chemicals.
One of those fumes was caused by the colorless gas vinyl chloride, deemed carcinogenic by the US National Cancer Institute.
The legally binding EPA’s order will ensure Norfolk Southern is held accountable for jeopardizing the health and safety of the East Palestine community, Regan added, noting that the agency will be at the citizens’ disposal for as long as it may take.
In addition, the agency will approve a work plan containing all of the necessary steps to clean up the derailment-caused environmental damage.
In line with the order, Norfolk Southern is required to not only identify and clean up contaminated soil and water resources but to also reimburse for the cleaning services the EPA offered to East Palestine’s residents and businesses.
The agency pointed out that it’ll step in immediately if Norfolk Southern fails to complete any actions as ordered. In such a case, EPA will conduct the necessary work and compel the company to pay triple the cost of the process.
Many of East Palestine’s residents remain concerned that they may develop cancer at a later date despite the tests’ results showing no pollutants in the municipal water system and that the air is safe.
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