Ohio is suing Norfolk Southern for the freight train derailment that caused a toxic chemical spill and fire that affected nearby wildlife and residents of the town of East Palestine last month.
As The Dallas Express previously reported, the incident happened on February 3 and involved five derailed tanker cars, one of which notably contained vinyl chloride. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources estimated that seven-and-a-half miles of a local stream had been impacted.
Norfolk Southern has since pledged millions in cleanup efforts and “inconvenience checks” to residents in both East Palestine and bordering counties of Pennsylvania, as covered by The Dallas Express.
Nonetheless, according to a news release from the office of the Ohio attorney general, the state filed a complaint against the freight operator in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Ohio on March 14.
The 58-count civil lawsuit alleges that the derailment and chemical release polluted the air and soil, “killing tens of thousands of fish and other animals, and recklessly endangering the health of Ohioans throughout the region.”
It also noted the company’s track record, pointing out that its accident rate had nearly doubled over the past decade. At least 20 of the derailments occurring since 2015 have involved chemical spills, the lawsuit alleged.
As The Dallas Express reported, another Norfolk Southern train derailed on March 9 in Alabama. While the freight’s cargo is unknown, local officials confirmed that no hazardous materials were spilled as a result of the accident.
“This derailment was entirely avoidable,” said Dave Yost, Ohio’s attorney general, at a recent press conference, per Reuters. Yost said he is seeking repayment for damages to the environment, people, and economy of Ohio.
“Ohio shouldn’t have to bear the tremendous financial burden of Norfolk Southern’s glaring negligence,” Yost added, per the news release.
Yost suggested that the complaint will make sure that Norfolk Southern “keeps its word” to the town.
Shortly after the incident, Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw released a statement addressed to the town, saying that the company “will stay here for as long as it takes to ensure your safety and to help East Palestine recover and thrive.”
The freight operator is now creating three long-term funds for those in East Palestine affected by the derailment, according to Reuters. One aims to make up for lost home values, another is a long-term compensation fund for medical expenses, and the last is intended to protect the local drinking water.
Although no deaths have been reported as a result of the derailment, a number of people in East Palestine have complained about rashes and difficulty breathing.
Shaw apologized during a Senate hearing last week and is scheduled to appear at a second hearing next week.
Shaw said that he was “committed to doing what’s right for the community” and was pledging $21 million for the community as a “down payment,” per Reuters.