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Norfolk Southern CEO says company will rip up the tracks, remove soil where chemicals spilled in East Palestine

Speaking during a town hall on CNN, Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw discussed plans to minimize the long-term impact of the train derailment.

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — In the weeks following the train derailment in East Palestine, one of the biggest questions facing the area is how it will minimize the long-term effects following the controlled release of hazardous materials.

Taking part in a CNN town hall on Wednesday night, Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw discussed his company's plans to do just that, revealing that it will remove the tracks and soil underneath where the train derailed on Feb. 3.

Shaw said that his company, which has accepted fault for the derailment, originally had a plan in place to deal with the affected soil that was an "environmentally sound plan based on engineering principles." But after pushback from the community, Norfolk Southern has opted to remove the tracks completely in a process that is expected to begin in early March.

RELATED: 'I'm angry': East Palestine resident talks with Norfolk Southern CEO in CNN town hall amid Ohio train derailment concerns 

"I'm terribly sorry that this has happened to this community," Shaw said. "What I can do, and what I will do is make it right. We're going to get the cleanup right. We're going to reimburse the citizens. We're going to invest in the long-term health of this community."

You can see footage from the CNN town hall in the video player below.

Shaw's appearance on the CNN town hall came one day after EPA Administrator Michael Regan ordered Norfolk Southern to handle cleanup responsibilities related to the train derailment in East Palestine. Among its demands, the EPA says if Norfolk Southern fails to complete any action ordered by the agency, it will immediately step in, conduct the work on its own and then force Norfolk Southern to pay triple in cost.

"In no way shape or form will Norfolk Southern get off the hook for the mess that they created," Regan said.

Following Regan's announcement, Norfolk Southern issued the following statement:

“We recognize that we have a responsibility, and we have committed to doing what’s right for the residents of East Palestine. We have been paying for the clean-up activities to date and will continue to do so. We are committed to thoroughly and safely cleaning the site, and we are reimbursing residents for the disruption this has caused in their lives. We are investing in helping East Palestine thrive for the long-term, and we will continue to be in the community for as long as it takes. We are going to learn from this terrible accident and work with regulators and elected officials to improve railroad safety.” 

The aftermath of the Feb. 3 train derailment has received national attention, with former President Donald Trump visiting East Palestine on Wednesday. On Thursday, Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg visited the area, stating that the resiliency and decency of the East Palestine community "has been inspiring."

"The really striking thing to me is how they’re here for each other," Buttigieg said. "This is not a community with infinite resources. Speaking with the mayor, hearing about what he has been through and remembering the experience of being a mayor, I am really impressed with how they’ve been able to support one another. They’re not here for the politics. They’re here to make sure this community can move forward.”

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