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EPA orders Norfolk Southern to clean up East Palestine after train derailment

EPA orders Norfolk Southern to clean up East Palestine after train derailment
EPA orders Norfolk Southern to clean up East Palestine after train derailment 02:37

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (KDKA) --  The EPA ordered Norfolk Southern to clean up East Palestine after a train derailed more than two weeks ago. 

The order, which the EPA calls legally binding, was announced by administrator Michael Regan on Tuesday during his second visit to the community. 

The order requires Norfolk Southern to identify and clean up contaminated soil and water, reimburse the EPA for cleaning services offered to residents and businesses, attend and participate in public meetings at the EPA's request and pay for the EPA's cost for work performed under the order. 

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, who was at the press conference, applauded Regan for holding Norfolk Southern accountable. 

"It was my view that Norfolk Southern wasn't going to do this out of the goodness in their heart, there is no goodness in their heart," Shapiro said. 

The EPA will approve a work plan outlining all the steps that need to be taken to clean up the environmental damage caused by the derailment, and if Norfolk Southern fails to comply, the EPA will do the work and compel the company to pay triple the cost. 

"In no way, shape or form will Norfolk Southern get off the hook for the mess they created," Regan said. 

In a statement after the press conference, Norfolk Southern said it recognizes its responsibility and is committed to doing what's right, saying the company has been paying for cleanup and will continue to do so. 

Norfolk Southern pointed to $6 million the company has spent on direct financial assistance, a community assistance fund and a budget for the new community liaison. 

"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," the statement said. "We are going to learn from this terrible accident and work with regulators and elected officials to improve railroad safety."

Regan said the air quality in more than 550 homes has been tested and officials haven't found any detections of vinyl chloride or hydrogen chloride above levels of concern.   

Before the press conference, DeWine and Regan toured homes in the community and drank tap water. 

DeWine said the village's water is safe and the Ohio EPA will continue to test weekly and make the results public. 

Shapiro said he's been working closely with DeWine since the train derailed. Last week, Shapiro said Pennsylvania will be independently testing water samples, and the results should be in soon. He also assured residents that there have been no concerning air quality readings. 

He slammed Norfolk Southern and said the company "injected unnecessary risk" into the process by not participating in the central command, providing conflicting data and refusing to explore alternatives in the early days.

"The combination of Norfolk Southern's corporate greed, incompetence and lack of concern for our residents is absolutely unacceptable to me," he said. 

Shapiro acknowledged that Beaver County residents are worried, but he promised the administration would continue to work for them. 

DeWine promised Attorney General Dave Yost would take the appropriate action and Shapiro, Pennsylvania's former attorney general, said he's made a criminal referral.   

East Palestine Mayor Trent Conway said Norfolk Southern can make everything right by turning the clock back to Feb. 2, putting the village that's home to about 4,700 people back to the way it was before the derailment. 

Though officials have maintained that East Palestine's air and water are safe despite residents complaining of symptoms like nausea, rashes and headaches, the Ohio Department of Health opened a medical clinic on Tuesday with the assistance of federal agencies so residents who say they feel sick can get checked out.

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