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Norfolk Southern to pay $600M after East Palestine train derailment

Thunderlips36 | Wikimedia Commons

The Norfolk Southern Railroad Co. announced it will pay $600 million to settle a class action lawsuit on April 9 after one of its trains in East Palestine, Ohio derailed and exploded.

On Feb. 3, 2023, a Norfolk Southern train derailed and exploded near the Pennsylvania border. Almost a third of the 149 cars derailed and caused nearly 2,000 residents to evacuate. Several of the cars had toxic and explosive material in them, including vinyl chloride, which aided in creating the explosion.

Norfolk Southern said the agreement, if approved by the court, will resolve all class action claims within a 20-mile radius of the derailment and, for residents who choose to participate, personal injury claims within a 10-mile radius of the derailment.

Many of the residents of East Palestine still feel they are going to be affected by health concerns for decades with many still having health concerns even a year after the explosion.

Millions of pounds of dirt had to be excavated from around East Palestine and other areas affected by the explosion. The water is safe, but Norfolk Southern still gave East Palestine $4.3 million for water filtration systems just to be safe and cautious.

“Individuals and businesses will be able to use compensation from the settlement in any manner they see fit to address potential adverse impacts from the derailment,” the company said in a statement. “This could include healthcare needs and medical monitoring, property restoration and diminution, and compensation for any net business loss.”

Hours after the derailment and explosion, President Joe Biden and the White House sent the Environmental Protection Agency and deployed a team of trained emergency response personnel to East Palestine to help aid the Pennsylvania emergency response teams and local emergency response teams to conduct air quality tests and offer other assistance to the explosion site. 

Norfolk Southern paid the settlement but did not admit to any wrong-doing or liability from the 2023 train derailment.

Businesses in East Palestine and other affected areas have had their business affected drastically from before the explosion to now. Before the derailment business was good; they were making money, but since the derailment, consumers don’t want to go out and buy products for fear of contamination.

According to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s NPR station WESA, fears of contamination from customers outside of the town have drastically reduced traffic over the past year.

Norfolk Southern has revealed a six-point plan to prevent future derailment. The company said its new safety initiatives are based on the preliminary findings of the National Transportation Safety Board. 

According to NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy, the derailment was “100% preventable.” 

Two days after the derailment, the residents of East Palestine and the surrounding areas were evacuated over the fear of tankers exploding. On Feb. 9, 2023 the order was lifted by the EPA saying the air levels had returned to normal levels.

According to the victims’ lawyers, residents are feeling confident about the compensation but are concerned about the years and decades to come and the lasting effects of the derailment and explosion on the health of them and their family members.

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