Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Shapiro Administration Provides Update On Norfolk Southern Train Derailment Response 9 Months After Derailment

On November 28, more than nine months after the Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio on February 3rd, the Shapiro Administration said it is continuing to conduct precautionary tests of the soil and water in Beaver and Lawrence counties and ensure Pennsylvanians have the resources needed to recover and rebuild.

At Gov. Shapiro’s direction, the Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Agriculture continue to conduct environmental testing in Western Pennsylvania to ensure the health and safety of residents, with results posted publicly on DEP’s website

Pennsylvania agencies have not found any long-term contamination in Western Pennsylvania related to the derailment in East Palestine.

Earlier this year, Gov. Shapiro directed Norfolk Southern to distribute $1 million to communities in Western Pennsylvania to assist with community relief. 

The funding was a key part of the multi-million dollar commitment Gov. Shapiro secured from Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw. 

Communities in Western Pennsylvania have put the funding to work, helping first responders, supporting the environment, and supporting local municipalities.

[Note: The House passed legislation in June strengthening rail safety requirements.  The Senate has so far not taken action.  Read more here.]

“Every step of the way, my Administration has made clear that we are focused on delivering the help our communities need, protecting the health and safety of Pennsylvanians, and holding Norfolk Southern accountable,” said Gov. Shapiro. “We organized independent water and soil sampling, and we put the results of that testing online so that our residents could see them for themselves; we delivered more than $1.4 million for first responders to ensure they could afford new equipment after their old equipment was contaminated from the derailment; and we ensured families were made whole for their losses, including Emily from Darlington, who was reimbursed for the eggs she couldn’t use or sell because of the derailment. My Administration will continue to work with our federal and local partners to support the people impacted by the derailment, and to hold Norfolk Southern accountable for any and all impacts on our Commonwealth.”

“In the time following the East Palestine train derailment, our state Departments of Agriculture and Environmental Protection have remained steadfast in monitoring soil, air, and water levels for contamination – thankfully we continue to see good results with no long-term contamination present from this tragedy,” said Sen. Elder Vogel (R-Beaver). “The health and safety of residents in Beaver and Lawrence counties are a top priority as we continue to move forward and rebuild as a community.”

“I want to thank Governor Shapiro and his Administration for the response and support they offered, and continue to offer to the residents of Darlington Township and the surrounding region,” said Rep. Jim Marshall (R-Beaver).

“The testing is necessary to continue the transparency that residents deserve,” said Rep. Robert Matzie (D-Beaver). “The Shapiro Administration from day one included the legislative delegation, local and county officials of all decisions and requests and continued testing is no different and speaks to that commitment.”

Community Assistance

Darlington Township has placed the $660,000 they received into a high yield savings account to support first responders and be prepared for any future emergencies.

Lawrence County sent $120,000 to Little Beaver Township and $115,000 to Enon Valley Borough. 

Lawrence County also directed $105,000 to the Lawrence County Conservation District, which will be used to fund a mini grant program. Eligible projects include clean water projects, healthy soil projects, and environmental education initiatives. The grant program applications close on December 1.

Norfolk Southern has also repaid Western PA fire departments and first responders an additional $400,000 since the Governor’s initial announcement in April, totaling over $1.4 million in reimbursements for equipment losses incurred as a result of the train derailment. 

Fire companies from Beaver, Lawrence, and Washington Counties responded to the derailment and the controlled vent and burn – and Gov. Shapiro is working to ensure they receive any and all funding they need. 

Gov. Shapiro, along with local and federal partners, also secured an additional $544,700 reimbursement for Darlington Township from Norfolk Southern Corporation to repair East Palestine Road, which was damaged as a result of the derailment. 

Gov. Shapiro is making sure Pennsylvanians are not picking up the tab for Norfolk Southern’s derailment, which cost immense state and local resources. At Gov. Shapiro’s request, Norfolk Southern will repay state agencies who responded to the derailment more than $1 million.

This funding will cover personnel costs for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, Department of Health services including the Health Resource Center which served hundreds of Western PA residents, and the Department of Environmental Protection’s work in Western PA, including independent testing and air monitoring.

Environmental Testing

The Shapiro Administration continues to conduct environmental testing in the area impacted by the train derailment to ensure the safety of the people, plants, and animals in the region. 

PDA sampled crops in Beaver and Washington Counties and found no contamination stemming from the train derailment

DEP is completing a third round of private well sampling within 2 miles of the derailment on the Pennsylvania side. 

DEP has also completed all of its soil sampling and surface water sampling. Pennsylvania agencies continue to see no contamination in Western PA related to the February train derailment in East Palestine.

Complete plant tissue test results appear along with final sample results from DEP’s soil and water testing on the interactive map launched in April on DEP’s website.

DOH is working with physicians and toxicology experts in Beaver and surrounding counties to convene a monthly online forum where health care providers discuss best practices to meet the complex social, emotional and physical health care needs of people with environmental health concerns primarily related to the train derailment.

DOH also continues to engage with federal partners and public health leaders —through a recent National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) workshop — to ensure that the public health concerns of impacted residents are being heard and addressed.

Visit the PA Emergency Management Agency’s Norfolk Southern Train Derailment Response Dashboard for more information about resources available to Pennsylvania residents.  

Related Articles:

-- House Passes Bipartisan Legislation To Strengthen Rail Safety After Norfolk Southern Train Derailment  [PaEN]  [Senate Failed To Act On Any Legislation]  

-- Beaver County Residents Call For Accountability, Emergency Preparedness After Dozens Of Malfunctions, Pollution From Shell Petrochemical Plant [PaEN] 

[Posted: November 28, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

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