East Palestine Victims Worry About Future After Settlement

(UnitedVoice.com) – The Norfolk Southern train derailment took place on February 3, 2023. Thirty-eight cars derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, along the border with Pennsylvania. The derailment caused a major headache for residents and business owners in the area. More than a year later, the company has reached a settlement, but not everyone is happy.

The Derailment

The train went off the tracks in the evening hours. An explosion occurred and dark black smoke billowed into the air. Many of the cars were carrying dangerous chemicals and created a hazardous situation.

Authorities decided to allow a controlled burn of several of the rail cars. However, that decision led to the release of hydrogen chloride and other chemicals into the air and ground. Officials launched a mass evacuation of a 1-mile radius. Still, residents of the town expressed concerns about rashes on their bodies, headaches, and other health issues.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the cars were carrying material, including vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate, and other chemicals that could be deadly if ingested. By the summer of that year, cleanup crews had removed more than 25 million gallons of contaminated water and over 80,000 tons of soil.

The federal government ordered Norfolk Southern to pay for all cleanup costs and expenses residents incurred.

Norfolk Southern Settles Suits

On April 9, Norfolk Southern announced it agreed to a $600 million settlement to resolve a class-action lawsuit. A former federal judge oversaw mediation in the case over three days. The settlement is intended to cover the damages for people who live within a 10-mile radius of the derailment site and businesses in a 20-mile radius.

Jayne Conroy, one of the lead attorneys for plaintiffs in the suit, told The Washington Post that her team believes the settlement is much larger than any others reached in a derailment case. That is not a comfort to some of the people in the area.

Eric Cozza lived three blocks from the derailment. He told The Associated Press that once the settlement is divided between the attorneys and other residents, it isn’t anywhere “near [his] needs.” Further, he said it likely won’t cover “what the health effects are going to be five or 10 years down the road.”

Resident Krissy Ferguson said the settlement felt like they were victimized again. She called it a “heart-wrenching day” and said the people who had the power to fight for them “took the easy way out.”

The concerns are not unfounded. Researchers just started their work to determine the long-term repercussions of the derailment. There’s a concern that residents could develop cancer and other health problems down the road. One only has to look at Love Canal in Niagara Falls, New York, about three and a half hours away from East Palestine, to see what can happen when people are exposed to hazardous chemicals.

The settlement still has to be approved by a judge.

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