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EPA: Norfolk Southern may be liable for cost of cleanup at East Palestine train derailment site

In addition, the agency says four other concerning chemicals besides vinyl chloride were being carried by rail cars.

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent a "General Notice of Potential Liability" letter to Norfolk Southern on Friday detailing areas where the company may be liable for damages and cleanup related to the East Palestine train derailment site.

In the letter, the EPA detailed their investigation into the release of "hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants" into the environment related to the events that took place directly after and in response to the train derailment.

The EPA concluded that Norfolk Southern may be responsible for the cleanup of the derailment site or the costs incurred by the EPA to cleanup the site under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).

As part of the notice sent to Norfolk Southern, the EPA detailed their actions and observations taken at the derailment site, which can be seen below.

  • Conducted air monitoring around the scene of the incident, the surrounding community, and residential air monitoring as part of the re-occupancy plan; 
  • Conducted air and water sampling; 
  • Made the following observations: 
    1. a. Materials released during the incident were observed and detected in samples from Sulphur Run, Leslie Run, Bull Creek, North Fork Little Beaver Creek, Little Beaver Creek, and the Ohio River. 
    2. Materials related to the incident were observed entering storm drains.
    3. Multiple rail cars and tankers were observed derailed, breached, and/or on fire, that included but not limited to the following materials: 
      1. Vinyl chloride 
      2. ii. Ethylene glycol monobutyl ether 
      3. iii. Ethylhexyl acrylate 
      4. iv. Isobutylene 
      5. v. Butyl acrylate.
    4. Five rail car tankers of vinyl chloride were intentionally breached; the vinyl chloride was diverted to an excavated trench and then burned off. e. Areas of contaminated soil and free liquids were observed and potentially covered and/or filled during reconstruction of the rail line including portions of the trench /burn pit that was used for the open burn off of vinyl chloride. 

Norfolk Southern's response to the notice was released Monday, with the railroad saying it was "willing to perform or finance the response activities related to the incident." You can read the EPA's full letter below:

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