U.S. NewsDERAILED: Disaster in East Palestine


Justice Department sues Norfolk Southern over toxic train derailment

The lawsuit seeks to hold the company accountable and "ensure it pays the full cost of the environmental cleanup."
Black plume of smokes rises over East Palestine, Ohio, after a toxic train derailment.
Posted at 1:05 PM, Mar 31, 2023

The Biden administration has filed a lawsuit against Norfolk Southern over the toxic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, early last month.

In the complaint Thursday on behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Justice Department said it's seeking fines under the Clean Water Act, which prohibits the discharge of pollutants into U.S. waters.

“When a Norfolk Southern train derailed last month in East Palestine, Ohio, it released toxins into the air, soil, and water, endangering the health and safety of people in surrounding communities,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland. “With this complaint, the Justice Department and the EPA are acting to pursue justice for the residents of East Palestine and ensure that Norfolk Southern carries the financial burden for the harm it has caused and continues to inflict on the community.” 

A cleanup worker stands on a derailed tank car as the cleanup of portions of a Norfolk Southern freight train.
Related Story

Norfolk Southern issues safety plan after East Palestine derailment

Norfolk Southern says its plan is based on the NTSB's report that found the train's bearing temperature reached a critical level.


The 50-car derailment on Feb. 3 resulted in a massive, days-long fire that sent plumes of toxic smoke into the air and prompted evacuations in the town of about 4,700 residents.

Hazardous contaminants seeped into surrounding creeks and rivers, with some eventually making its way into the Ohio River. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources said at least 44,000 fish had died in the weeks following the disaster.

The state filed a lawsuit against Norfolk Southern earlier this month to ensure the company pays for the cleanup and future monitoring of groundwater and soil. That suit also seeks to hold Norfolk Southern accountable for economic losses, such as decreased property values.

Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw has repeatedly apologized for the incident, but his words have been widely disregarded by residents of East Palestine and surrounding areas.

“The United States Attorney’s Office stands with our district’s residents in pursuing accountability and justice in both the immediate and distant future, as we work together to deal with the damage and destruction this disaster has caused,” said attorney Michelle Baeppler for the Northern District of Ohio.