The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Friday filed a lawsuit against the Norfolk Southern Railroad in connection with the February 3 derailment of a train carrying hazardous materials in eastern Palestine, Ohio.
The lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of Ohio, accuses the company of illegally polluting waterways in downtown Ohio and is seeking an injunction specifying the railroad’s financial responsibility for the cleanup.
Norfolk Southern has said it will cover the costs, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has invoked the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or Superfund Act, which allows the federal government to bill for those costs.
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Of the 38 cars derailed in the February accident, at least 11 contained hazardous materials, including vinyl chloride, a toxic substance used in the manufacture of plastic. Five others contained oil, while another contained fuel additives.
Since the derailment, the EPA has overseen the movement of 9.2 million gallons of sewage and nearly 13,000 tons of solid waste from the site.
Norfolk Southern and federal officials said the air and water are safe for residents, although several members of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reportedly fell briefly ill earlier this month while investigating the possible health effects of the crash.
“When a Norfolk Southern train derailed in eastern Palestine, Ohio last month, it released toxins into the air, soil and water, endangering the health and safety of people in surrounding communities,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement Friday.
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“With this complaint, the Department of Justice and EPA are acting to seek justice for residents of eastern Palestine and to ensure that Norfolk Southern bears the financial burden for the harm it has caused and continues to cause to the community,” he added.
A spokesman for Norfolk Southern told The Hill: “[o]Your job now is to make progress every day to clean up the site, help residents whose lives were affected by the derailment, and invest in the future of East Palestine and the surrounding areas.”
“We are working with urgency under direction from the US EPA and are making progress every day. That remains our focus and we will continue to work on it until we get it right,” the spokesman added in a statement.
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