EPA orders railroad to cleanup derailment site
By Jack Burke22 February 2023
Derailed cars were carrying hazardous chemicals such as butyl acrylate
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered Norfolk Southern to “conduct all necessary actions” associated with the cleanup from the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment.
As part of EPA’s legally binding order, Norfolk Southern will be required to:
- Identify and clean up contaminated soil and water resources.
- Reimburse EPA for cleaning services to be offered to residents and businesses to provide an additional layer of reassurance, which will be conducted by EPA staff and contractors.
- Attend and participate in public meetings at EPA’s request and post information online.
- Pay for EPA’s costs for work performed under this order.
As part of the order, EPA will approve a work plan outlining all steps necessary to clean up the environmental damage caused by the derailment. If the company fails to complete any actions as ordered by EPA, the agency will immediately step in, conduct the necessary work, and then seek to compel Norfolk Southern to pay triple the cost.
“The Norfolk Southern train derailment has upended the lives of East Palestine families, and EPA’s order will ensure the company is held accountable for jeopardizing the health and safety of this community,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “Let me be clear: Norfolk Southern will pay for cleaning up the mess they created and for the trauma they’ve inflicted on this community. I’m deeply grateful to the emergency responders, including EPA personnel, who’ve been on the ground since day one and ensured there was no loss of life as a result of this disaster. As we transition from emergency response, EPA will continue to coordinate closely with our local, state, and federal partners through a whole-of-government approach to support the East Palestine community during the remediation phase. To the people of East Palestine, EPA stands with you now and for as long as it may take.”
On Feb. 3, about three dozen Norfolk Southern freight cars derailed near East Palestine. Eleven of the derailed cars were carrying hazardous chemicals such as butyl acrylate and vinyl chloride, which is used to make the hard plastic resin PVC.
To address the concerns of residents regarding potential indoor contamination, EPA said it will offer cleaning services to area businesses and families. The Agency has extensive experience with similar cleaning programs in other Midwestern communities. Under the terms of the order, Norfolk Southern will reimburse EPA for the costs of these cleaning services. More details about how community members can request this service will be available this week.
EPA’s order marks the transition of the multi-agency response from its “emergency phase” to a longer-term remediation phase. To help implement the order, EPA will establish a “unified command structure” to coordinate the clean-up related efforts of FEMA, HHS, Ohio EPA, Ohio EMA, PA DEP, as well as Norfolk Southern. This approach is frequently used in situations where multiple agencies need to work together. In this case, the response includes federal, state and local agencies across multiple states.