Norfolk Southern “needs to pay” for derailment health costs, DeWine says
Concerns about the East Palestine train derailment’s impact on local residents’ health remain widespread, despite officials saying that municipal water and air testing shows the area is safe.
But on Tuesday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said that, should any health problems arise related to the incident, the railroad company should foot the bill.
“The railroad needs to pay for it,” DeWine said during a joint press conference with the Environmental Protection Agency. “The railroad needs to pay for anything that they cause, anything that they did. So when someone shows up at the clinic and if they do not have insurance, the railroad needs to be made to pay for that.”
Also on Tuesday, the Ohio Department of Health and the Columbiana County Health Department opened up a special clinic in East Palestine for locals “who have medical questions or concerns related to the recent train derailment.”
According to DeWine, the clinic will provide services to East Palestine residents “free of charge.” DeWine said at the press conference that about 38 people had signed up for the clinic.
“The concerns are long-term concerns, and as I talked to people today…the concern was, ‘How is it going to be in a year? How is our water going to be in a year? How is it going to be in two years?'” DeWine said on Tuesday. “So we have to stay at this. And people have the right to expect that from us.”
“This is trauma. This community has been traumatized,” the governor added. “This is just a tough, tough situation that has occurred.”
The new clinic, located at a local church, will have registered nurses and mental health specialists, as well as a toxicologist who the state says will be “either on site or available by phone.”
“The clinic will serve as an opportunity for area residents to discuss concerns and receive a health assessment,” a statement announcing the opening of the clinic says. “Referrals will be made if needed.”
Many locals have expressed concern about the hazardous substances that were on board the train when it derailed. While officials have said that air quality testing and municipal water testing have shown that both are safe for residents, many have remained skeptical, as local waterways continue to face contamination.
During the press conference, the EPA also announced that Norfolk Southern will be responsible for all cleanup related to the derailment. As such, the company must clean up contaminated soil and water, reimburse the EPA for cleaning services that the agency will provide to residents and businesses and take part in public meetings and be transparent with information related to the derailment.
The EPA said the agency was ready to act if the company fails to fulfill its responsibilities, but it vowed to make Norfolk Southern “pay triple the cost.”
“The Norfolk Southern train derailment has upended the lives of East Palestine families, and EPA’s order will ensure the company is held accountable for jeopardizing the health and safety of this community,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement. “Let me be clear: Norfolk Southern will pay for cleaning up the mess they created and for the trauma they’ve inflicted on this community.”
In a statement after Tuesday’s news conference, Norfolk Southern said that it recognized “that we have a responsibility” and that the company has been paying for the train derailment cleanup and will continue to do so.
“We are committed to thoroughly and safely cleaning the site, and we are reimbursing residents for the disruption this has caused in their lives,” the statement said. “We are investing in helping East Palestine thrive for the long-term, and we will continue to be in the community for as long as it takes. We are going to learn from this terrible accident and work with regulators and elected officials to improve railroad safety.”