NTSB Investigating Norfolk Southern Safety Practices After Series of Train Accidents

Over the last two years, a series of train accidents involving Norfolk Southern have led to massive derailments, chemical spills and employee deaths, the NTSB warns.

Last month’s Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, which resulted in widespread water contamination and health concerns for area residents, was one of a series of recent accidents involving the rail company, which has sparked an investigation by the federal safety officials.

The National Transportation Safety Board has announced that it launched a special investigation into Norfolk Southern’s safety practices, and called on the company to immediately begin reviewing its procedures and culture.

On February 3, a massive Norfolk Southern train derailed near Ohio and Pennsylvania borders, resulting in 20 tankers full of toxic chemicals being breached and catching fire. This caused a temporary evacuation of nearly 2,000 local residents, and there have been growing reports of illnesses at the East Palestine train derailment site, as well as a number of animal deaths and concerns about water, soil and air contamination in a wide area around the accident location.

While the crash investigation continues, and health experts evaluate the long-term health risks, Norfolk Southern toxic train derailment lawsuits are being filed by those impacted, including claims for economic damages, medical monitoring and personal injuries.

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According to the NTSB, the East Palestine train accident was just one of a string of incidents that raise alarming questions about how Norfolk Southern views railway safety.

The Board indicated that since December 2021, it has investigated several significant accidents involving Norfolk Southern.

These include the death of an employee following an accident with a railroad spike machine while replacing track in Pennsylvania in December 2021; a derailment near Sandusky, Ohio on October 8, 2022; the death of one employee and the injury of another when one Norfolk Southern train struck part of another in Alabama in December 2022; the train derailment accident in East Palestine on February 3; the derailment of a 2.55-mile-long train on March 4 near Springfield, Ohio, and the death of a Norfolk Southern employee near Cleveland on March 7.

“The continued safe operations of Norfolk Southern is vital to the United States. The NTSB is concerned that several organizational factors may be involved in the accidents, including safety culture,” the NTSB warned. “The NTSB will conduct an in-depth investigation into the safety practices and culture of the company. At the same time, the company should not wait to improve safety and the NTSB urges it to do so immediately.”

Norfolk Southern Train Derailment Investigations

Not only does Norfolk Southern face an NTSB investigation as well as legal claims over the accident, but is also under investigation by other parts of the government as well.

Late last month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent a response team from its Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), which began interviewing residents about their health concerns and symptoms they have developed since the accident.

On February 10, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent a notice to Norfolk Southern, announcing it was considering to make the company pay for the cleanup costs under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). Since then, EPA officials have said in live interviews that they will definitely require Norfolk Southern to pay for those costs.

The company also faces increasing criticism from Congress and the Department of Transportation over what appears to be a cavalier attitude toward safety in order to maximize profits, resulting in increased pressure for new safety requirements and regulations regarding rail transport of hazardous materials.

In addition, the Ohio Attorney General filed a lawsuit on behalf of the state against Norfolk Southern, seeking to force the company to pay for cleanup of the East Palestine site. The lawsuit cites Norfolk Southern for numerous hazardous waste and pollution law violations at the state and federal level, as well as common law negligence, public nuisance and trespass laws.

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