The US Department of Justice has announced a lawsuit against a railroad company for pollution after a train carrying hazardous materials derailed in East Palestine, Ohio.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday, accused Norfolk Southern of violating the Clean Water Act by dumping more than 1,000,000 gallons of toxic chemicals into Ohio River tributaries.
The derailment occurred on February 3, when 38 cars on a Norfolk Southern freight train were thrown off the track near the Pennsylvania-Ohio border. A total of 11 of those 38 cars were carrying hazardous materials, including vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate and benzene.
The crash also started a fire, which quickly spread to the cars containing the dangerous chemicals. Norfolk Southern officials made the decision to conduct a “controlled release” of the dangerous chemicals to prevent an even bigger explosion.
Thousands of residents of eastern Palestine were evacuated before the explosion. Then they complained of dead animals, chemical odors and illness.
Although testing by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found no dangerous levels of chemicals, residents of the small Ohio town remain skeptical.
Some residents pleaded with Norfolk Southern officials at a town hall meeting earlier this month, pleading with the company to evacuate them from the area while the EPA conducts more testing.
The chemicals, according to the lawsuit, entered the “air, soil, groundwater and waterways,” including tributaries of the Ohio River, which supplies water to about 5 million people. About 9 million liters of polluted water have already been removed from the area.
The Department of Justice wants to order Norfolk Southern to “remediate, mitigate and compensate for damage to public health and the environment caused by the disaster.” They also demand fines of $64,618 per day, or $55,808 per day, or $2,232 per barrel of oil or unit of hazardous material.
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