The EPA steps in to take over the East Palestine train derailment cleanup

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan speaks during a news conference in East Palestine, Ohio, on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023.

Matt Freed / Matt Freed

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday that it would take control of the cleanup of a Norfolk Southern train derailment in Ohio earlier this month that released hazardous chemicals into the environment.

Crews are still working to respond to the freight disaster in East Palestine as community members worry about possible adverse health effects from the toxic materials released when dozens of cars derailed after a likely mechanical failure.

Under the legally binding order, Norfolk Southern must identify and clean up contaminated soil and water resources, pay for the costs of work performed by the EPA and reimburse the agency for additional cleaning services offered to residents and businesses.

The agency’s move comes as the emergency response effort has now morphed into an environmental cleanup that is the responsibility of the railroad, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said during a Tuesday press conference.

“Norfolk Southern will pay for cleaning up the mess that they created and the trauma that they inflicted,” Regan said. “In no way, shape or form will Norfolk Southern get off the hook for the mess that they created.”

The company will also have to attend and participate in public meetings requested by the EPA, he said.

Norfolk Southern said Monday that it is working to excavate contaminated soil and water from the site. The company said it has so far paid out $3.4 million in financial assistance to families impacted by the accident.

State officials in Ohio have opened a medical clinic in response to concerns from who believed they may health issues as a result of the derailment, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday.

“This is really in response to the concerns that we have heard, that people want to be able to go someplace and get some answers about any kind of medical problems that they believe that they are, in fact, having,” DeWine said.

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