The US Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against Norfolk Southern railway company for environmental damage caused by a train derailment on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border earlier this year. The incident resulted in hazardous chemicals being spilled into nearby creeks and rivers. Responders burned toxic chemicals in some of the derailed cars to prevent an uncontrolled explosion, leading to the evacuation of half of the 5,000 residents of East Palestine.
The government’s lawsuit aims to hold the company accountable for “unlawfully polluting the nation’s waterways and to ensure it pays the full cost of the environmental cleanup.” The government is asking for fines under the Clean Water Act and a judgment to hold the railroad accountable for past and future costs. The lawsuit is seeking justice for the affected communities and environmental remediation efforts.
The derailment in early February resulted in more than 9 million gallons of wastewater being removed from the site and hauled to hazardous waste storage sites in Ohio and other states. According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the spilled contaminants killed an estimated 44,000 fish, mostly small ones such as minnows. Although government officials say tests haven’t found dangerous levels of chemicals in the air or water in the area, many residents remain concerned about their long-term health.
Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw has repeatedly apologized for the impact the derailment had on the environment and the community, and the company has pledged to pay for the cleanup. The railroad has promised more than $20 million to help the Ohio community recover while also announcing several voluntary safety upgrades.
The lawsuit follows Ohio’s filing of a lawsuit against Norfolk Southern just over two weeks ago. The state’s lawsuit aims to ensure that the company pays for the cleanup and environmental damage and groundwater and soil monitoring in the years ahead.
The derailment and subsequent lawsuit highlight the importance of companies taking proactive measures to prevent environmental disasters. Norfolk Southern has acknowledged its responsibility and pledged to take steps to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future. The company’s commitment to environmental responsibility is critical in protecting both the environment and the communities it serves.
The government’s lawsuit against Norfolk Southern will set a precedent for other companies and industries to prioritize environmental protection and accountability. The Department of Justice’s efforts to hold Norfolk Southern accountable for its actions demonstrate the government’s commitment to safeguarding the environment and protecting the public’s health and safety.
As the legal proceedings unfold, the affected communities and environmental advocates will closely monitor the outcome. The resolution of this case will have far-reaching implications for the railroad industry and environmental protection efforts across the country.