Republican Governor of Ohio, Mike DeWine, called for Norfolk Southern, the railroad company whose train derailed last month in East Palestine, Ohio, to open a fund for healthcare bills for the town’s residents.
Thursday, Governor DeWine said that a multi-million dollar healthcare fund should be set up for residents who have or will experience health problems that can be connected to the toxic train derailment.
“I think where this clearly goes…to assure people that their concerns about the long run will, in fact, be taken care of — a year from now, five years from now, ten years from now — we’ll have to end up with a fund, and the railroad is going to have to establish that fund in conjunction with officials,” said DeWine. “Ultimately, that will be supervised by a court.”
The train derailment caused thousands to be forced to evacuate the town and its surrounding areas. Many residents who have returned since being allowed home have reported health problems, including lightheadedness, fatigue, dizziness, sore throats, and respiratory problems. Workers laboring to clean up the site have also expressed they are suffering from symptoms.
Additionally, residents have reported they are fearful that long-term health problems may occur in the future because of the poor air quality in the town. Residents have also been worried about chemicals that could have contaminated East Palestine’s water supply. However, the Environmental Protection Agency continues to reassure residents that the water is safe to drink after testing the water and finding no contaminants.
Gov. DeWine: Norfolk Southern will be forced to set up a healthcare fund
Gov. DeWine noted that the rail disaster would cost Norfolk Southern millions of dollars, and the company will be made to set up the healthcare fund if it did not do so voluntarily.
“If you look at what has happened in other rail and other big environmental disasters, some much, much bigger than this, it always goes to a fund. That’s how you protect people,” said DeWine.
He added that the rail company has already been named in several class-action lawsuits and will likely end up in a federal court over the disaster.
Wednesday, a group of bipartisan lawmakers introduced legislation that seeks to increase railroad safety. The new legislation would require all rail carriers to notify emergency response officials in the state if they are carrying hazardous materials and guarantee each train is operated by a team of at least two people.
The legislation would additionally require increased monitoring of railroad car wheel bearings, which transportation officials claim likely caused the Ohio derailment.