(Washington) The American state of Ohio on Tuesday began civil proceedings against the railway company Norfolk Southern after the derailment in early February of one of its trains containing chemicals, raising fears since of serious environmental consequences.
“Ohio shouldn’t have to bear the incredible financial burden [résultant] gross negligence by Norfolk Southern,” Dave Yost, attorney general for the northern US state, said in a statement.
The lawsuit seeks to “hold Norfolk Southern financially responsible” for the derailment that took place in East Palestine on February 3 that “irresponsibly endangered the health of the residents of the area, and the natural resources of Ohio. “, specifies the press release.
Norfolk Southern is charged in the complaint with 58 violations of various environmental laws, federal and Ohio, including for defects in the train and the way it was operated, but also for product releases chemicals in the air, river systems, and community land.
This derailment caused a huge fire and some 2,000 evacuations. Among other things, the train was carrying vinyl chloride, a carcinogenic and highly flammable chemical used in the manufacture of plastic.
The railway authorities then proceeded to “controlled” releases of this vinyl chloride to avoid a possible explosion, releasing toxic fumes.
Some residents have since reported experiencing various symptoms, including headaches and rashes, and said they feared they might end up with cancers in a few years.
Authorities last week announced a “special” investigation into Norfolk Southern’s “safety culture and practices” after several crashes.
“Norfolk Southern will clean the site in a safe, thorough and urgent manner,” its CEO promised Thursday before a Senate committee, recalling that the company had pledged to pay several million dollars for the region.
Referencing that promise, the Ohio Attorney General said in his Tuesday statement, “The Complaint will ensure Norfolk Southern keeps its word.”
Dave Yost is asking that the company be required to pay damages, including for lost tax revenue caused by the derailment, and that it reimburse current and future expenses of Ohio to “prevent any future harm to the environment and public health” and to “restore natural resources”.