Norfolk Southern agrees to pay for East Palestine residents to relocate during cleanup
Thousands of residents in East Palestine, Ohio, and nearby residents in Pennsylvania will be able to live elsewhere at no additional cost while crews clean up after last month’s derailment of a Norfolk Southern train that had been hauling vinyl chloride, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday.
“As soil work continues at Norfolk Southern’s derailment site, some residents close to the derailment site may notice additional odors,” the EPA said in a news release. “At EPA’s request, Norfolk Southern has agreed to provide additional financial assistance to residents of the East Palestine area, including the portions of Pennsylvania within a mile of the derailment site. This assistance may include temporary lodging, travel, food, clothing, and other necessities.”
The release says that residents who want to move during the cleanup should contact the Norfolk Southern resource hotline at 800-230-7049, or visit the Family Assistance Center at Abundant Life Church in New Waterford, Ohio.
River Valley Organizing, an advocacy group, shared an email from the EPA that offered additional details: It said Norfolk Southern began soil removal under its tracks on Saturday and is beginning to contact residents today about the remediation effort by mailing out notices about the option to relocate. On Saturday, resident James Gorby posted on an East Palestine Facebook group, “The smell is back Anybody else smelling it because of the rain.”
The government’s disaster-response office, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is also hand-delivering notice of the relocation options today.
Relocation is voluntary, and Norfolk Southern will continue to pay expenses “while the soil removal and transportation work is ongoing.” The email says residents will not have to sign a waiver or release of liability to receive that support. Residents can make payment arrangements with Norfolk Southern, according to the email, and one option will be a prepaid debit card.
The email says that remediation work is expected to last one to two months, depending on the weather and unexpected delays. It also includes information about how residents can request to have the inside and outside of their homes cleaned by a Norfolk Southern contractor.
In an emailed response to the news, Norfolk Southern said that residents “may notice additional odors” as their remediation work continues. “We have deployed additional air monitors, which now number 11, to the perimeter of the work area to ensure continued monitoring of air quality between the work area and community,” according to its statement.
River Valley Organizing said in a news release it doesn’t think there should be a geographic limit to who is allowed to move away.
“While we are pleased that the EPA and Norfolk Southern have finally listened to the community and will offer relocation assistance, this help must also be offered to the broader community until independent testing verifies the safety of our homes,” said East Palestine resident and RVO organizer Jami Cozza. “A 1-mile radius for relocation doesn’t reflect the facts on the ground that this chemical disaster has had a far-reaching impact. We need to stop letting Norfolk Southern put their profits ahead of the people of our community.”
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