The 50-car train derailment that occurred on February 3 has affected more than 5,000 residents in East Palestine. Ten cars contained toxic chemicals, and another five were intentionally burned to release vinyl chloride sending toxic plumes into the air.
Norfolk Southern Railways said they would offer an “inconvenience fee” and reimbursement to affected residents. The company has set up a Family Assistance Center where residents can get a form and fill out the details of their expenses so that they could reimburse, as reported by CBS News.
However, several residents have reported that they cannot claim reimbursement or the $1,000 inconvenience fee due to ineligibility. Reegan Parker told WKYC that she lives just outside the one-mile radius of the evacuation zone, but workers of Norfolk Southern said she is not eligible to claim any money.
East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway expressed his frustration with the situation and has promised to make the company accountable, as the effects still linger, as Fox News reported. People are also aggravated by the situation, particularly by the chemical smell. Parker said they could still smell the chemical on their couches and clothes. Many residents are also worried about the air and water quality around the area despite assurance from government officials and environmental organizations.
CBS News reported the Environmental Protection Agency had given a general notice to the company of its liability and responsibility to clean the site. Additionally, several residents have filed a federal lawsuit against the company. The lawsuit demands the company to pay for medical screenings for residents living within a 30-mile radius of the derailment. The lawsuit aims to determine the extent of damage from the derailment, particularly to the health effects of releasing vinyl chloride.
Attorney Michael O’Shea of Lipson O’Shea Legal Group expressed his worry to News 5 Cleveland regarding the company’s distribution of reimbursement for an inconvenience fee. He said the reimbursement fee might waive residents’ rights to make future claims. Norfolk Southern has clarified through News 5 that accepting reimbursement or the inconvenience fee is not a settlement of any future claim.