US officials filed suit Friday against Norfolk Southern, seeking financial penalties after the company’s toxic rail derailment in Ohio led to residential evacuations in early February.
The civil complaint against Norfolk Southern asks a federal court to “hold defendants accountable for unlawfully polluting the nation’s waterways and to ensure it pays the full cost of the environmental cleanup,” according to the complaint from the US Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency.
The suit hits the rail company for unlawful discharge of toxic materials into US waters, seeking about $60,000 per day for each clean water violation.
“With today’s action, we are once more delivering on our commitment to ensure Norfolk Southern cleans up the mess they made and pays for the damage they have inflicted as we work to ensure this community can feel safe at home again,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan.
The federal complaint comes on the heels of a state lawsuit filed earlier this month by Ohio against Norfolk Southern.
On February 3, a Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous materials derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, resulting in a pile of burning rail cars that burned “for several days,” the DOJ said in a press release.
Emergency workers then deliberately burned off more of the materials in other tank cars, releasing dangerous gasses into the air and forcing home evacuations of nearby residents.
Responding to the lawsuit, a Norfolk Southern spokesperson said the company was “working with urgency” at the EPA’s direction “until we make it right.”
According to the spokesperson, Norfolk Southern has already undertaken some 595 air monitoring tests, recovered about 9.4 million gallons of impacted water and committed more than $27.9 million to East Palestine and the surrounding region, including providing assistance to some 6,820 families.
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