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Norfolk Southern says it has finished cleaning up soil under tracks where East Palestine derailment took place

The railroad says more than 73,000 tons of soil and over two million gallons of water were taken from the site, with new rails also being put in place.

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — More than four months after the toxic train derailment in East Palestine, Norfolk Southern says its crews have completed decontaminating the railroad tracks where the wreck took place.

In a release sent out Monday afternoon, the railway said all of the soil underneath the tracks has been removed and replaced with "approved backfill material." In addition, new rails were also installed, with all of the work being done under the supervision of the United States and Ohio Environmental Protection Agencies.

"We promised to listen to residents and support East Palestine for the long haul. Fully cleaning up both tracks shows that we are keeping our promises," Norfolk Southern President and CEO Alan H. Shaw said in a statement. "We fully understand our responsibility to make things right in East Palestine, and as we mark this phase of remediation, we are dedicated to making further progress and investing in the community."

The cleanup dates back to Feb. 3, when a 149-car freight train came off the tracks due to what the National Transportation Safety Board says was an axle failure. Of the 38 cars that derailed, several contained hazardous materials, with some of those liquids seeping into the soil and nearby waterways.

Following an evacuation order and a controversial controlled release that sent vinyl chloride billowing into the air, Norfolk Southern almost immediately began running trains over the site again. This did not sit well with residents and local officials, particularly East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway.

"I was not very happy with that," Conaway told 3News' Neil Fischer back in February, claiming the railway had said operations wouldn't resume until all residents were back home from the evacuation. "Unless I go tie myself to the railroad tracks, that's about the only way I can stop them, and I'm not going to do that."

In response to intense criticism, the railroad gave in and announced it would rip up the affected rails, causing freight traffic to either be limited or outright rerouted over the ensuing months. NS says its workers have transported more than 73,000 tons of contaminated soil from the site, along with upwards of 20 million gallons of water.

While public officials have said the air and municipal drinking water are both safe, concerns from residents remain, and children and others are being told to keep out of local streams affected by the spill. State and federal leaders have pledged Norfolk Southern will pay for the cost of the incident, with the NTSB's final report on the matter expected sometime next year.

With cleanup now complete, Norfolk Southern says normal rail traffic through East Palestine will resume "in the coming weeks." The EPA has yet to comment on the matter.

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