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Norfolk Southern finishes soil remediation under East Palestine train tracks

A drone shot of remediation in East Palestine.
Ygal Kaufman
Ideastream Public Media
Norfolk Southern is turning its attention to remediating the areas around the train tracks, as seen here on June 26, 2023.

Norfolk Southern has completed soil remediation under both tracks in East Palestine where the February train derailment took place. Now, remediation efforts are focusing on the soil surrounding the tracks.

Workers are hauling out 50 to 60 truckloads of contaminated soil per day, Chris Hunsicker with Norfolk Southern’s environmental operations said.

“The water that we’ve shipped off site for management is about 22 million gallons, and I believe we’re shipping upwards of 70,000 tons of soil," Hunsicker said. "We know we have more material to be removed and shipped off for proper management.”

The contaminated water and soil are shipped to remediation facilities. Hunsicker said he expects to finish remediating the area surrounding the tracks in August. The level of contamination in that area will determine how much longer total remediation efforts in East Palestine will take, he said.

“(Being) completely done with remediation is going to take some time," Hunsicker said. "We know that, because once we’re done with our initial removal, there is some follow up characterization and work that needs done.”

The depth of soil removal depends on how severe the chemical release was in that area, Hunsicker explained.

"About five or six [feet] I'd say a typical depth of where we're going, but there have been some areas where there might have been a more intense release," Hunsicker said. "And those areas we've dug deeper."

So far, soil tests in the area have come back with expected results, showing the area was contaminated with chemicals the train was carrying, Hunsicker said.

"The soils we've been seeing (are) pretty much what we've expected to see based on our work plans and our investigation so far," Hunsicker said.

 Chris Hunsicker speaks with members of the media.
Ygal Kaufman
Ideastream Public Media
Chris Hunsicker with Norfolk Southern's environmental operations gives an update on the rail company's remediation efforts on June 26, 2023.

Norfolk Southern is also working to remediate two streams in East Palestine that were contaminated by the derailment.

"Right now, you can go in Sulphur Run and Leslie Run, and you can see little fish swimming around and frogs and crayfish," Hunsicker said.

After remediation, the company will focus on restoring the village.

"Restoration is going to take a bunch of different forms. The restoration may be regrading a property to the existing condition, revegetating, things like that, recreating a road," Hunsicker said. "It's really trying to establish the conditions that were here before the event, so the village and the community get turned back to normal."

Abigail Bottar covers Akron, Canton, Kent and the surrounding areas for Ideastream Public Media.