The state of Ohio has filed a 58-count civil lawsuit against rail company, Norfolk Southern, over the derailment of a freight train carrying toxic chemicals through the village of East Palestine last month.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court, alleges multiple violations of state and federal law pertaining to hazardous waste, water pollution, air pollution, and common law negligence.

The state is seeking financial compensation from the rail company for damage caused by the derailment, including the release of over 1 million gallons of chemicals into the environment, which the state claims was “recklessly endangering” to residents of East Palestine and natural resources.

This incident is just one of what the complaint calls a “long string” of hazardous material incidents involving Norfolk Southern, with at least 20 train derailments involving chemical releases reported since 2015. 

According to reports, the derailment initially caused a fire, which prompted authorities to carry out a controlled burn to prevent a potentially deadly explosion.

picture of Ohio train explosion with smock and fire

The spill sent up huge quantities of toxic smoke during the burning, causing sore throats and other symptoms among local residents and rail workers.

Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw apologized for the impact of the derailment on the affected communities and pledged to clean up the site fully, as well as provide $21 million in financial assistance to affected residents and emergency workers.

However, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said that there are still many unknowns about the long-term environmental and health impacts of the spill.

Yost also expressed concern about the high cost of the cleanup required following the derailment. The rail company stated that it is committed to finding a solution to address long-term health risks and other problems associated with the accident.

picture of Ohio's train derailment
Photo: Matt Freed / AP Photo

Meanwhile, Ohio’s lawsuit seeks to hold Norfolk Southern financially responsible for the damages caused by the derailment, including damage to natural resources, emergency responses, and economic harm to residents.

The fallout from this incident is likely to continue for years to come, according to Yost.

The long-term effects on the air, water, and soil are still unclear, and concerns remain about the impact on farmers and their livestock in the area, as well as property and land prices.

Norfolk Southern has issued a statement saying it looks forward to working toward a final resolution with Attorney General Yost and others as it coordinates with his office, community leaders, and other stakeholders to finalize the details of these programs.