Ohio filed a lawsuit against railroad giant Norfolk Southern to ensure it pays for the environmental damage and cleanup caused after the massive train derailment on the Pennsylvania-Ohio border last month, according to Ohio’s attorney general statement on Tuesday.
The federal lawsuit seeks to force the rail company to pay for soil monitoring and groundwater in the years ahead as well as economic losses in the town of East Palestine and the surroundings, said Dave Yost, Ohio Attorney General.
“The fallout from this highly preventable accident is going to reverberate throughout Ohio for many years to come,” said Yost.
Although no one was injured in the February 3 derailment, around half of the 5,000 residents of East Palestine were forced to evacuate for several days while responders intentionally burned toxic chemicals in some of the cars that were derailed to prevent an uncontrolled explosion. Residents were left with lingering health concerns. Officials with the government say tests over the last month have not found any dangerous chemical levels in the water or air in the area.
Norfolk Southern CEO apologizes to Congress
Last week, Alan Shaw, Norfolk Southern CEO, apologized in front of Congress for the derailment’s impact on the area; however, he failed to make any specific commitments to pay for economic harm and long-term health.
So far, the railroad has promised over $20 million to help the Ohio community recover while announcing several safety upgrades it is making voluntarily.
On Tuesday, Norfolk Southern said in response to the lawsuit that it was planning to take additional steps to deal with concerns voiced by the community.
The railroad is working on crafting a long-term medical compensation fund to provide some financial protection for home sellers if they lose property value due to the derailment, said the company in a statement, while improving drinking water protections.
The Ohio lawsuit asks the railroad to reimburse state agencies and first responders for the disaster’s costs.
It needs to be known how much money the state seeks because the response is ongoing; however, Yost has clarified that the cost will be huge. “This is an epic disaster. The cleanup is going to be expensive.”
Ohio officials met with representatives from Norfolk Southern on Monday and spoke about ways to help the people in East Palestine. According to Yost, some assistance may include enhancing the village’s water treatment options.
The attorney general said he was pleased that Norfolk Southern has indicated it wants to do what is right and that the lawsuit will ensure it keeps its promise.
Many residents in East Palestine remain angry at the railroad and worry about what may become of the village. The fears included concerns about their house values, local businesses’ economic future, and long-term health.