EPA Orders Norfolk Southern to Clean Up Ohio ‘Mess’

Feb. 22, 2023
Norfolk Southern must attend town meetings and submit a work plan for EPA approval for the cleanup.

Michael Regan, lead administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said on Feb. 22 that rail operator Norfolk Southern Corp. “will pay for cleaning up the mess that they created and for trauma they've inflicted on this community.”

On Feb. 3, a freight train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border releasing toxic chemicals into the environment. The wreck resulted in a fire that sent clouds of smoke over the town.

Thousands of residents had to evacuate while railroad crews drained and burned off toxic chemicals. Residents have since voiced concern of health and environmental issues related to the spill. A recent Process Safety With Trish & Traci podcast discussed some of the environmental and emergency response issues.

The comments by Regan were echoed by President Joe Biden. "This is their mess. They should clean it up," Biden said on Twitter.

The EPA also ordered Norfolk Southern officials to attend town meetings about the spill, and to submit a work plan for EPA approval for the cleanup associated with the derailment.

Norfolk Southern has stated it recognizes its responsibility to "thoroughly and safely" clean up the derailment site and pay for it. "We are going to learn from this terrible accident and work with regulators and elected officials to improve railroad safety," it said in an emailed statement.

The company has already established an initial $1-million community support fund and reportedly has distributed $3.4 million in direct financial assistance to more than 2,200 families to cover evacuation costs.

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