Bloomberg Law
March 31, 2023, 2:36 PM

DOJ Sues Norfolk Southern Over Ohio Train Derailment, Spill (2)

Chris Strohm
Chris Strohm
Bloomberg News

Norfolk Southern Corp. was sued by the US Justice Department over the train crash and chemical spill that forced the temporary evacuation of a small Ohio town in February.

The department is seeking damages for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act, including “unlawfully polluting the nation’s waterways,” according to the 28-page complaint filed Thursday in an Ohio federal court. The government also wants to ensure the company “pays the full cost of the environmental cleanup,” DOJ said.

“As a result of this incident, hazardous materials vented into the air and spilled onto the ground,” the department said in the suit, which was filed on behalf of the US Environmental Protection Agency. “These substances contaminated local waterways and flowed miles downstream.”

Norfolk Southern has come under criticism by local and state officials after a 149-car train derailed on Feb. 3 in East Palestine, Ohio, dumping chemicals into soil and local waterways.

Read More: Norfolk Southern Sued by Ohio Over Toxic Train Derailment

The company is “working with urgency” at the direction of the EPA and “making daily progress” on remediation efforts and public assistance, spokesman Connor Spielmaker said in a statement.

“Our job right now is to make progress every day cleaning up the site, assisting residents whose lives were impacted by the derailment, and investing in the future of East Palestine and the surrounding areas,” Spielmaker said. “That remains our focus and we’ll keep working until we make it right.”

The company has set up a website to detail extensive environmental remediation efforts working in concert with state and federal authorities.

For example, more than 9.4 million gallons of impacted water have been recovered and transported off-site for disposal, along with nearly 13,000 tons of waste soil that has been removed for proper disposal, according to the company.

The company said its financial commitment to East Palestine and the surrounding region has surpassed $27.9 million.

The company also launched the website for the East Palestine community and public at-large to receive regular updates on environmental cleanup progress, family assistance services and answers to common questions and concerns.

WATCH: Norfolk Southern faces a DOJ lawsuit after a 149-car train derailed on Feb. 3 in East Palestine, Ohio,
Source: Bloomberg

Hazardous materials contained in train cars that derailed included vinyl chloride, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate, butyl acrylate, isobutylene, and benzene residue, according to the US lawsuit.

“Exposure to these hazardous materials at sufficiently high levels has been associated variously with an increased risk of cancer; risks to fetal development; damage to organs like the liver, kidneys, lungs, and skin; and other health conditions,” the lawsuit said.

The company faces a growing list of civil lawsuits as a result of the crash, including residents and business in the area who claim the spill caused them physical and monetary harm. The state of Ohio also has sued the company.

The case is US v. Norfolk Southern, 23-cv-00675, US District Court, Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division.

(Updates with company response starting in the fifth paragraph.)

--With assistance from Zoe Tillman.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Chris Strohm in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Sara Forden at

Steve Stroth

© 2023 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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