The recent Ohio train derailment could be one of the deadliest railroad accidents in history, arising out of corrupt greed, disregard for safety, and extreme recklessness. Although the accident in East Palestine, Ohio, did not result in casualties, it continues to severely affect the environment, the soil, the quality of air, and the Ohio river water, which provides water supply to many other states.

Ehline Law and our personal injury attorneys have worked with Camp Lejeune victims and veterans suffering from service-related cancers and other medical illnesses to protect their rights since 2005. Mike Ehline, Founder of Ehline Law, lost his father to service-related cancer and continues to be a strong advocate for veterans across the United States. 

At Ehline Law, we understand how toxic and hazardous chemicals can have a detrimental impact on a victim’s life, which is why we’ve decided to cover the 2023 Ohio train derailment accident to create awareness. 

What Happened in East Palestine, Ohio?

On February 3, 2023, at around 9 PM, a train traveling from Madison, Illinois, to Conway, Pennsylvania, derailed near the small village of East Palestine in northeastern Columbiana County, Ohio. 

In total, there were 150 train cars on the route before the Ohio train derailment. The initial investigation report released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) revealed 38 cars were affected by the derailment. Once the 38 train cars derailed, the train carrying toxic chemicals caught fire that further caused damage to 12 more derailed train cars.

Investigators found that the train, operated by Norfolk Southern, carried many different chemicals and combustible hazardous materials, one of them being vinyl chloride, a highly toxic and flammable gas. The fire following the train derailment sent hazardous thick smoke into the sky that hovered over the little town of East Palestine, Ohio.

Officials from the NTSB and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reached the accident site to conduct assessments and start the investigation process. The team assessed the tank car fittings and retrieved the locomotive event data recorder to help determine the cause of the accident.

A nearby home had captured the accident on its surveillance camera, and the authorities reached out to the homeowners to retrieve the footage, which pointed to the possible failure of wheel bearings as the cause of the train derailment.

Governor Orders for Immediate Evacuation of Residents

When the incident occurred, Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio raised serious alarms of an impending explosion at a news conference, leading to chaos and causing about 1,500 to 2,000 residents on both sides of the Ohio-Pennsylvania border to evacuate immediately. 

He added that the residents were in great danger of inhaling toxic fumes, which can cause severe and life-threatening respiratory issues. The press conference led officials to go door-to-door to evacuate residents safely to a safer place.

To aid with the evacuation process, Norfolk Southern donated $25,000 to American Red Cross to set up shelters for residents to seek refuge in. By February 6, 2023, Gov. Mike DeWine extended the evacuation zone by including a one-by-two-mile area surrounding East Palestine in the evacuation order.

Controlled Release of Toxic Chemicals in Evacuation Zone to Prevent an Explosion

Firefighters worked to keep the tanks cool throughout the weekend and let them burn off the contents. According to Chief Keith A. Drabick of the East Palestine Fire Department, there were safety features in the rail car carrying hazardous materials which are still functioning.

Safety Features in the Train Cars Fail, Prompting Manual Venting of Hazardous Materials

On February 6, 2023, the officers from Norfolk Southern reported that they would manually vent the cars carrying toxic chemicals since the pressure release devices stopped working. 

The rail operator, Norfolk Southern, officials said they would be manually venting five of the cars carrying vinyl chloride into pits and embankments, which they would late remediate.

Power Cut off in the Evacuation Zone During the Manual Venting

To add an extra layer of safety during the manual venting, Chief Keith A. Drabick stated that they had informed the local authorities to cut off the power temporarily in the area.

On February 8, 2023, after measuring the air supply and deeming it under levels of concern, the Governor announced that the residents could return home.

EPA Shares Concerns about Severe Air, Water, and Ground Pollution

On February 10, 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency revealed that 20 out of 150 cars traveling on the route before the derailment had hazardous materials such as vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate, ethyl hexyl acrylate, and other toxic chemicals.

According to the EPA, even days after the incident occurred, these toxic chemicals are still contaminating the air, the soil, and the surface waters.

EPA Conducts Air Quality Testing in Evacuation Zone and Inside Homes

On February 12, 2023, the EPA monitored the air quality of the environment and inside some of the residents’ homes. It stated that although there are contaminants in and around East Palestine, leading to a foul odor, they have not yet reached alarming levels.

While working with the Columbiana County Emergency Management Agency, the EPA investigated the air quality inside 290 homes in East Palestine and reported no signs of vinyl chloride or hydrogen chloride, chemicals that can cause life-threatening respiratory issues. 

The investigation continues, and the report pertaining to air quality in 183 more homes has yet to be released.

Concerns over Water from Ohio River Prompt Immediate Measures

The train derailment also raised concerns about the states who consume water from the Ohio river. On February 12, 2023, the West Virginia subsidiary of American Water, which supplies water to 23 states, stated that the officials did not find any anomalies in the water supply from the Ohio river. 

However, to be on the safer side, the company installed a secondary intake where they would draw water from as an alternate source if needed.

West Virginia also focused on enhancing its treatment processes to avoid incidents in case the water turns toxic over time.

Evansville Water and Sewer Utility in Indiana continued to closely investigate the quality of the water supply as their structure is about 700 miles away from the spillage, increasing the risk of water contamination.

As the citizens started to panic, Tiffani Kavalec from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency EPA conducted a press conference where she stated that there were only two contaminants found in the water from the Ohio river, but citizens need not worry as water treatment processes will filter these out. 

According to Tiffani, the plume of pollution is moving at one mile per hour toward the Mississippi River, nearing Huntington, and residents should turn off their drinking water taps as the plume passes by.

The experts say that the Ohio river’s volume has diluted the toxic chemicals, and it no longer remains a health concern for residents. However, the statements by Tiffani and the experts did not ease citizens’ concerns, especially after Gov. Mike DeWine recommended that residents drink bottled water.

On February 14, 2023, Norfolk Southern announced that the company paid $1.4 million in cash advances to affected families to cover their evacuation costs, including lodging, food, clothes, and other necessities.

The Ohio train derailment has not led to any injuries or casualties. However, some people have shared videos of marine life (fish and frogs) slowly dying in the contaminated water and of people alleging chemical odors in the air. Residents also complained of minor headaches following the train derailment incident. 

Two Pennsylvania residents filed a lawsuit to coerce Norfolk Southern into setting up health monitoring camps and paying medical bills for affected residents in a 30-mile radius.

The situation worsened when law enforcement officers arrested a reporter and charged him with disorderly conduct and criminal trespassing after being “too loud” in the Governor’s press conference. After his release, Mr. Lambert went on social media stating that he got arrested for doing his job.

The East Palestine Police Department and the Columbiana County Sheriff’s Office didn’t respond to comments or calls from other journalists about the incident.

Will the Situation after the Train Derailed Get Back to Normal Any Time Soon?

There are a lot of questions that the residents have about the train derailment incident, especially pertaining to the environmental concerns that may affect them. It is a complex issue that may require long hours of research, investigation, and studies to understand the extent of the damage before proper remediation efforts can take place.

The Ohio EPA is undergoing a two-stage cleanup process involving the cleanup of hazardous materials at the accident site and an environmental assessment for remediation plans. The EPA also approached Norfolk Southern about paying the cleanup costs and stated that it might take some time before things return to normal.

It’s important to note that there is a chance that the situation may never return to normal, and it may affect many residents. Assessing the spillage damage is a long-term study, and it wouldn’t be until many years down the road that the results that people come to know the consequences of the Ohio train derailment.

If you research Camp Lejeune or Agent Orange, you’ll understand what we mean by all of this. The residents at Camp Lejeune who drank or bathed in the contaminated water exhibited different types of cancer. They were unaware that the contaminated water was the primary source of their diseases until decades later.

Also, during these assessments, the officers involved in the investigation hid the results. They lied to the residents for years until they were forced to tell the public the truth about the toxic chemicals in the groundwater and the soil in Camp Lejeune.

How Did the Ohio Fiery Train Derailment Occur?

According to the railroad union officials, the employees warned Norfolk Southern Railroad about such an incident happening from the railroad cost-cutting that harmed safety measures, but the company did not pay heed to their warnings.

Clyde Whitaker, chairman and director of the Ohio State Legislative Board for the International Association of Sheet Metal, stated that he reported to one of the federal railroad inspectors about crew members disregarding warnings from detectors that help prevent such incidents from happening.

Could There Be Lawsuits in the Future Against the Norfolk Southern Railroad?

Investigations are still ongoing into the cause of the railroad accident that can affect the lives of over 5 million residents. If the investigation finds out that the railroad company was negligent, did not carry out proper maintenance, and was cutting costs, it could be liable for the damages incurred.

However, the extent of the health damages is unclear, which can affect lawsuits against Norfolk Southern. Since Norfolk Southern Railway is a private company publicly traded over the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), affected victims may have two years following the date of their injuries to pursue compensation against the railroad company.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Ehline Law

If you’ve suffered injuries in an accident due to another’s negligence, you may be able to seek compensation. Contact us at (833) LETS-SUE for a free consultation to discuss your case with our experienced personal injury attorneys and learn more about your legal options.


Michael Ehline

Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of the largest motorcycle accident settlements in U.S. History. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients. We pride ourselves in being available to answer your most pressing and difficult questions 24/7. We are proud sponsors of the Paul Ehline Memorial Motorcycle Ride, and a a Service Disabled Veteran Operated Business. (SDVOB.) We are ready to fight.

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