Ohio Farmer

Cleanup and compensation in East Palestine, Ohio

The railroad has agreed to pay $600 million in a class-action lawsuit settlement.

Jennifer Kiel, Editor, Michigan Farmer and Ohio Farmer

May 7, 2024

3 Min Read
A man using a device to monitor air near rail excavation
DERAILMENT: The environmental cleanup of the train derailment in northeast Ohio is nearing completion more than a year later. It is expected to be completed entirely by the end of 2024.EPA

The fiery Feb. 3, 2023, train derailment in northeast Ohio included 38 of the 149 railcars of a Norfolk Southern freight train carrying hazardous materials. More than 2,000 residents within a 1-mile radius of the site were evacuated.

On the outskirts of East Palestine — a town of almost 5,000 residents near the Pennsylvania state line — 11 tank cars carrying hazardous materials subsequently ignited.

With the fire still burning two days later, monitoring indicated the temperature in one of the railcars containing vinyl chloride was rising, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. To prevent an explosion, Norfolk Southern vented and burned five railcars containing vinyl chloride in a flare trench the following day, resulting in additional releases.


More than a year later, the cleanup continues, as reported in an ongoing EPA newsletter. The amount of waste removed includes:

  • more than 350 million pounds of contaminated soil

  • 201 drums of site-related material contained

  • 49 million gallons of contaminated liquid managed

The number of samples taken includes:

  • 1,025 of groundwater

  • 28,000 of air

  • 3,872 of surface water

  • 233 of sediment

  • 1,309 of private wells

  • 6,323 of soil

  • 288 of public drinking water

In October, environmental remediation efforts in East Palestine — supervised and approved by the U.S. and Ohio Environmental Protection Agencies and Unified Command — reached a milestone as crews hauled out the final truckload of the more than 176,000 tons of soil affected by the incident. East Taggart Street was also opened to full two-way traffic.

Related:How Ohio ag handled train derailment

The next phase of site remediation will include backfilling excavated areas and continued assessment of soil and creek sheens and sediments.

EPA has said cleanup in East Palestine is expected to be completed this year.


To date, Norfolk Southern has committed more than $103 million to East Palestine and the surrounding areas in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The railroad has also agreed to pay $600 million in a class-action lawsuit settlement for claims within a 20-mile radius of the derailment, and personal injury claims within a 10-mile radius, according to the Associated Press.

The settlement is expected to be submitted for preliminary approval to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. Payments could begin to arrive by the end of the year, subject to final court approval.

The railroad has promised to create a fund to help pay for the long-term health needs of the community, but that is yet to be finalized.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s full investigation into the cause of the derailment won’t be complete until June, but the agency has said that an overheating wheel bearing on one of the railcars, which wasn’t detected in time by a trackside sensor, likely caused the crash, according to NTSB.

The National Institutes of Health has awarded researchers at Case Western Reserve University a $280.000 grant — one of six — to study possible long-term health effects of the train derailment. The university is collecting blood samples, saliva, nails and hair from 200 people to check for DNA damage. The study is still accepting study volunteers.

Interested in participating? Take the Healthy Futures Research Participant Screener to check your eligibility. For more information, email the study team at [email protected].

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About the Author(s)

Jennifer Kiel

Editor, Michigan Farmer and Ohio Farmer

While Jennifer is not a farmer and did not grow up on a farm, "I think you'd be hard pressed to find someone with more appreciation for the people who grow our food and fiber, live the lifestyles and practice the morals that bind many farm families," she says.

Before taking over as editor of Michigan Farmer in 2003, she served three years as the manager of communications and development for the American Farmland Trust Central Great Lakes Regional Office in Michigan and as director of communications with Michigan Agri-Business Association. Previously, she was the communications manager at Michigan Farm Bureau's state headquarters. She also lists 10 years of experience at six different daily and weekly Michigan newspapers on her impressive resume.

Jennifer lives in St. Johns with her two daughters, Elizabeth, 19, and Emily 16.

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