Both the Depart of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency have banded together to announce a recently established lawsuit targeting Norfolk Southern, the company responsible for the events surrounding the train derailment and the subsequent chemical fallout in East Palestine, Ohio.
Both state and local authorities have previously evacuated all residents within a one-mile radius of the February 3rd derailment which resulted in a controlled burn of chemicals on the vehicle. Known to be highly carcinogenic to humans, vinyl chloride is used to manufacture PVC and was leaked out of five train cars via gigantic towers of black acrid smoke that could be spotted from both western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. Residents have since sounded the alarm regarding health symptoms they have suffered in the wake of this controlled burn.
These two groups put forth a complaint seeking “penalties and injunctive relief for the unlawful discharge of pollutants, oil, and hazardous substances” as part of the Clean Water Act, as well as “declaratory judgment on liability for past and future costs” related to the incident due to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act.
“When a Norfolk Southern train derailed last month in East Palestine, Ohio, it released toxins into the air, soil, and water, endangering the health and safety of people in surrounding communities,” expressed Attorney General Merrick Garland in a release. “With this complaint, the Justice Department and the EPA are acting to pursue justice for the residents of East Palestine and ensure that Norfolk Southern carries the financial burden for the harm it has caused and continues to inflict on the community.“
The suit from the EPA-Justice Department team stated that materials released out of the train cars — such as vinyl chloride, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate, butyl acrylate, isobutylene, and benzene residue — have been “associated variously” with issues such as impaired fetal development, organ damage, cancers, and other health conditions with a sufficiently high degree of exposure. Both federal and state officials have repeatedly made the claim that the water and air supplies for the area around East Palestine are entirely safe for its residents.
research groups coming from both Carnegie Mellon University and Texas A&M University, despite the claims, have found that nine chemicals present on the train have been found in higher than normal concentrations in the water and air supplies for the town, marking an extreme risk of long-term health complications to the people living in the town. Ivan Rusyn, a researcher from Texas A&M, has explained that environmental officials have not offered up “the full context into which the actual data collected by them could be placed,” most notably with respect to the expected long-term health risks stemming from extended exposure to chemicals found in the spill.
The clean-up procedures from this spill are expected to take close to three months.