Feb 15, 2023 - News

Gov. DeWine: Rail company responsible for derailment cleanup

A train carrying hazardous materials is on fire near East Palestine, Ohio.

Smoke rises from a derailed cargo train in East Palestine the day after the Feb. 3 accident. Photo: Dustin Franz/AFP via Getty Images

Gov. Mike DeWine is holding Norfolk Southern Railway responsible for the Feb. 3 derailment of a train carrying hazardous materials in East Palestine.

Catch up quick: Many residents were ordered to evacuate their homes as local, state and federal emergency crews descended on the village of about 4,800 people near the Pennsylvania border.

The latest: The company did not classify its train as a "high hazardous material train," DeWine said in a press conference yesterday, meaning Norfolk Southern was not required to notify Ohio of what it was transporting.

  • "This is absurd … Congress needs to take a look at how these things are handled," he said, alongside other state leaders.
  • DeWine said Norfolk Southern has committed to paying for the cleanup effort and suggested the state would file a lawsuit if it fails to do so.

Threat level: Days after the derailment, crews released and burned toxic chemicals to prevent a potentially deadly explosion.

  • Some residents who returned to town have since complained of burning sensations, headaches and other health issues.
  • Amanda Greathouse told The New Republic she developed a rash and sore throat after going home a week after the derailment.
  • Taylor Holzer, an animal caretaker, claims to have lost a fox and has a dog now suffering from coughing fits.

What they're saying: In the press conference, Bruce Vanderhoff, the state health director, called such anecdotes "challenging," implied they are hard to verify, and said "air sampling in that area really is not pointing toward an air source for this."

  • The EPA said that as of Tuesday afternoon its air samples had not detected "any levels of health concern that can be attributed to the incident."
  • The agency did detect hazardous material in samples of several nearby waterways, but not in any that are downstream.
  • A Columbus water research analyst told the Dispatch there are no risks to Central Ohio's drinking water.

Of note: The derailment gained added attention when a NewsNation reporter was arrested during a local press conference.

  • DeWine hopes the charges will be dropped.

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