Ohio Train Derailment Lawsuit Filed By East Palestine Residents, Amid Reports of Illnesses, Animal Deaths Linked to Toxic Chemicals

Residents report that fish, foxes, chickens and other animals have died mysteriously in the wake of the train derailment and toxic chemical spills into nearby waters.

Norfolk Southern faces another train derailment lawsuit, as health concerns increase over the risks of toxic chemicals released into the air and environment in East Palestine, Ohio, as reports continue to surface involving animal deaths and illnesses among residents in the area.

On February 3, a Norfolk Southern freight train consisting of 150 freight cars derailed near the border between Ohio and Pennsylvania, causing 50 freight cars to leave the track, including several filled with vinyl chloride.

Following fears that the burning, pressurized vinyl chloride tanker cars might explode, pressure was released from the tanks and the fires were put out. However, since the incident, investigators have identified several other potentially toxic chemicals that may have been released as a result of the train derailment as well, including ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, ethylhexyl acrylate and isobutylene.

There were no immediate injuries in the derailment or resulting fires and chemical releases, according to local and state officials. However, concerns immediately emerged about the long-term health risks faced by individuals in the area.

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Just days after the train derailment, on February 7, three East Palestine residents filed a complaint (PDF) against Norfolk Southern in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, seeking class action status to represent all persons from the area who were adversely affected by the accident and resulting chemical contamination.

The lawsuit claims the accident was caused by negligence on behalf of Norfolk Southern. The three plaintiffs, Harold Feezle, Susan E. Scheufele and David J. Scheufele all allege they and others suffered damages due to the accident, resulting  in evacuations and chemical exposures.

Feezle indicates he had to close his business during the evacuation, suffering financial damages, while Susan and David Scheufele had to abandon their home during the evacuation, and David Scheufele indicates he suffered injuries due to toxic chemical exposure.

It is one of at least six train derailment lawsuits filed to date against Norfolk Southern as a result of the incident.

Plaintiffs blame the accident on Norfolk Southern’s alleged negligence, indicating that the train derailment and subsequent damages could have been prevented.

“Representative Plaintiffs were adversely affected by the Incident, in that they were exposed to the toxic substances, toxic fumes, and carcinogens from the resulting chemical spill, were forced to evacuate from their residences and/or businesses, and/or were prevented from returning to their residences and/or businesses at or after the time of the chemical spill,” the lawsuit states. “Business owners in the affected area were unable to operate during the time of the evacuation.”

Train Derailment Toxic Chemical Concerns

In the wake of the accident, after the nearly 2,000 evacuated residents were allowed to return to their homes, reports began to surface of local residents finding thousands of dead fish, mysterious deaths among chickens, foxes and other animals, and a persistent “burnt plastic” smell lingers in the air.

They have also reported seeing chemicals and debris on the surface of waterways, and have begun to report health issues, such as respiratory problems and coughing.

Toxic chemicals have been reportedly detected in nearby Sulfur Creek, Lesley Run Creek and the Ohio River, and other nearby waterways, however local health officials say there have been no toxic chemicals from the derailment detected in local drinking water supplies at this point.

Governor Mike DeWine said last week that he was appalled to discover that the train, which contained dozens of tankers filled with pressurized toxic chemicals, did not have to register as carrying highly hazardous materials due to a regulatory loophole. This means that Norfolk Southern was not required to notify local officials that a potentially hazardous train was coming through.

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sent the company a notice indicating Norfolk Southern may be held responsible for all environmental cleanup costs and other costs related to the train derailment.

Cause of Train Accident Still Under Investigation

On February 14, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued an update on its investigation into the accident.

“NTSB investigators have identified and examined the rail car that initiated the derailment. Surveillance video from a residence showed what appears to be a wheel bearing in the final stage of overheat failure moments before the derailment,” the NTSB update states. “The wheelset from the suspected railcar has been collected as evidence for metallurgical examination. The suspected overheated wheel bearing has been collected and will be examined by engineers from the NTSB Materials Laboratory in Washington, D.C.”

Just days later after the update, on February 16, another Norfolk Southern train carrying toxic chemicals partially derailed just outside of Detroit, Michigan. About 30 cars derailed near Van Buren Township, but no one was injured and the only hazardous materials car attached to the train, carrying liquid chlorine, was not affected by the derailment.

On February 19, Norfolk Southern published a statement from its CEO, Alan Shaw, who says his company will compensate residents for the damages done and help clean up the toxic contamination.

Shaw says Norfolk Southern has established a $1 million community support fund to help residents, and called the fund a “down payment” on helping the community recover.

1 Comments

  • Matthew GFebruary 24, 2023 at 12:38 pm

    Too Soon. Too Soon. 'Never Make Your Move Too Soon' (B B King). Reported on 02-23-2023: "Military families impacted by toxic water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in the 1950s to 1980s now have a two-year opening to file a lawsuit against the Marine Corps ...." Simple math says "you now have a two-year opening to file a lawsuit ....", "1950s" - that's 73 years ago; "1980s" - that's 40 years ago.[Show More]Too Soon. Too Soon. 'Never Make Your Move Too Soon' (B B King). Reported on 02-23-2023: "Military families impacted by toxic water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, in the 1950s to 1980s now have a two-year opening to file a lawsuit against the Marine Corps ...." Simple math says "you now have a two-year opening to file a lawsuit ....", "1950s" - that's 73 years ago; "1980s" - that's 40 years ago. An unknown is: How much time will elapse before the effects of Palestine's disaster begin to affect residents?; What will the effects be?; and, minimally, If and When do you accept a 'settlement' for those effects? "Never Make Your Move Too Soon"!

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