U.S. reaches settlement with Norfolk Southern to address pollution caused by East Palestine train derailment

May 29, 2024
A $310 million settlement has been reached with Norfolk Southern over the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment to address pollution and water quality issues.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a settlement of over $310 million with Norfolk Southern Railway Company.

The settlement, announced May 23, 2023, aims to hold the company accountable for addressing and paying for the damage caused by the February 3, 2023 train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.

If the settlement is approved by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Norfolk Southern will be required to take measures to improve rail safety, pay for health monitoring and mental health services for the surrounding communities, fund long-term environmental monitoring, pay a $15 million civil penalty, and take other actions to protect nearby waterways and drinking water sources.

Norfolk Southern estimates that it will spend more than $1 billion to address contamination and other harm caused by the derailments and improve rail safety and operations.

This settlement follows a complaint filed by the United States against Norfolk Southern in March 2023 for unlawful discharges of pollutants and hazardous substances caused by the train derailment.

In February 2023, the EPA issued a unilateral administrative order, holding Norfolk Southern accountable for the damage done to the community. The order required cleanup of spilled substances and impacted soils, as well as payment of all costs to the U.S. government.

The EPA also issued an order under the Clean Water Act to clean up oil spilled into the surrounding waterways. Since then, the EPA has been directing and overseeing the cleanup activities.

Under the settlement, Norfolk Southern has agreed to:

  • Spend an estimated $235 million for all past and future cleanup costs.
  • Pay a $15 million civil penalty to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act.
  • Pay $25 million for a 20-year community health monitoring.
  • Spend approximately $15 million to implement long-term monitoring of groundwater and surface water for a period of 10 years.
  • Pay $15 million for a private drinking water monitoring fund that will continue the existing private drinking water well monitoring program for 10 years.
  • Implement a “waterways remediation plan” with an estimated budget of $6 million for projects in Leslie Run and Sulphur Run that will prioritize addressing historical pollution, reducing non-point source pollution through infrastructure upgrades and stormwater management projects, and restoring aquatic and riparian habitat.
  • Pay $175,000 for natural resource damages.

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