The US Department of Justice announced a lawsuit against a railroad operator over pollution after a train carrying hazardous materials derailed in East Palestine, Ohio.
The lawsuit, which was filed on Thursday, accused Norfolk Southern of violating the Clean Water Act by dumping over 1,000,000 gallons of toxic chemicals into tributaries of the Ohio River.
The derailment happened on February 3, when 38 cars from a cargo train operated by Norfolk Southern 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 sparked a fire, which quickly spread towards the cars containing the dangerous chemicals. Norfolk Southern officials made the decision to conduct a ‘controlled release’ of the hazardous chemicals to prevent an even larger explosion.
Thousands of East Palestine residents were evacuated before the explosion. Afterwards, they complained of dead animals, chemical smells, and sickness.
Although testing by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not found hazardous 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, begging the company to evacuate them from the area as the EPA conducts more tests.
The chemicals spilled into the ‘air, soil, groundwater, and waterways,’ according to the lawsuit – including tributaries of the Ohio River, which provides water for about 5million people. About 9million gallons of polluted water has already been removed from the area.
The Justice Department is seeking to order Norfolk Southern to ‘remedy, mitigate, and offset the harm to public health and the environment’ from the disaster. They are also seeking monetary penalties of $64,618 per day, or $55,808 per day or $2,232 per barrel of oil or unit of hazardous substance.
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