EPA takes over management of Ohio train accident, orders railway to clean up toxic spill

Agency issues "legally binding" order against Norfolk Southern.

Published: February 21, 2023 12:53pm

Updated: February 21, 2023 1:04pm

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday announced that it would be seizing oversight of the ongoing Ohio train derailment disaster, ordering the company behind the incident to submit to an EPA-approved cleanup plan as part of its management of the crisis. 

The EPA said in a press release that it would "approve a workplan outlining all steps necessary to clean up the environmental damage caused by the derailment."

If the company, Norfolk Southern, "fails to complete any actions as ordered by EPA, the Agency will immediately step in, conduct the necessary work, and then seek to compel Norfolk Southern to pay triple the cost," the announcement continued. 

The derailment in question occurred on Feb. 3 near East Palestine, Ohio, when a nearly-two-mile-long train jumped the tracks there, scattering dozens upon dozens of cars across the crash site. 

Officials in the area subsequently performed a controlled burn at the site, one that spread chemicals such as hydrogen chloride and phosgene into the local environment. 

EPA Administrator Michael Regan said on Tuesday that the crash "has upended the lives of East Palestine families," and that the agency's order "will ensure the company is held accountable for jeopardizing the health and safety of this community."

"As we transition from emergency response, EPA will continue to coordinate closely with our local, state, and federal partners through a whole-of-government approach to support the East Palestine community during the remediation phase," Regan continued, adding: "To the people of East Palestine, EPA stands with you now and for as long as it may take.”

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