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Norfolk Southern nears completion of track restoration in East Palestine, Ohio

Norfolk Southern Corp, has completed excavation of impacted soil beneath the railroad track involved in a Feb. 3 derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.

In an April 14 news release, officials with Atlanta-based NS said that track restoration will be completed “in the coming days.” They added that the full excavation “marks a significant step in [the firm’s] commitment to clean up the derailment site safely, thoroughly and with urgency.”

After the derailment, five rail cars containing PVC feedstock vinyl chloride monomer were drained and burned off on Feb. 6. Officials were concerned that one or more of those cars would have exploded if not drained. The derailment caused residents living within a mile of the site to be evacuated for several days.

The railroad has been sued by the federal government and by the state of Ohio for damages related to the derailment. On April 17, NS President and CEO Alan Shaw testified before the Ohio Senate about the accident.

According to an Associated Press account, Shaw said at the hearing that he supports Congress’ efforts in railway safety legislation, including provisions to increase inspection oversight for railways, further investment in wayside detectors and stricter standards for tanker cars, such as those that were carrying hazardous materials on Feb. 3.

But when pressed on a two-person crew mandate for all trains, Shaw said there’s no data to support that two-person crews help prevent derailments and that his railroad will “follow the science.”

On April 17, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown met with East Palestine residents. Brown has visited the area several times since the derailment. “It shouldn’t take a crisis like this for elected officials to put partisanship aside and work together for the people we serve, and not for corporations like Norfolk Southern,” Brown said in a statement.

“This is the kind of community that’s so often forgotten or exploited by corporate America,” he added. “I’m here for the long haul. We’re going to be here for months, for the next year, the next 10 years if that’s what it takes.”

Brown’s office said that he’s working with members of both parties to secure resources for Ohioans and to hold NS accountable “for cleaning up the damage their corporate greed has caused to the community.”

EPA officials said that as of the morning of April 18, almost 63 million pounds of contaminated soil had been shipped from the area, along with almost 13 million gallons of liquid waste.

More than 600 indoor air screenings have been conducted by EPA, and almost 400 private wells have been tested. NS officials said that testing continues to show that air and water are safe in the area. To date, NS has contributed more than $30 million to relief efforts in East Palestine.

On April 10, a truck carrying toxic soil from the site overturned in Columbiana County, just north of the derailment. An Ohio EPA spokesperson said that the spill was contained and was not a threat to nearby waterways. The driver of the vehicle sustained minor injuries and was cited for operating a vehicle without reasonable control.

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