At Ohio Town Hall for Residents, Train Company Is a No-Show

Norfolk Southern cited safety issues
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 16, 2023 9:05 AM CST
Updated Feb 16, 2023 9:15 AM CST
At Ohio Town Hall for Residents, Train Company Is a No-Show
Residents of East Palestine, Ohio, and the surrounding area line up outside for a town hall meeting at East Palestine High School in East Palestine, Ohio, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023.   (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

There were shouts and boos in the packed gym of East Palestine High School on Wednesday night after the mayor told residents of the Ohio town that representatives from the company involved in the train derailment earlier this month would not be showing up. Hundreds of people came to the meeting after hearing that they would be able to voice their concerns about contamination and other issues directly to Norfolk Southern, the Columbus Dispatch reports. Mayor Trent Conaway told residents he was just as frustrated as they were. "I want answers," Conaway said. "Norfolk Southern didn't show up. They didn't feel it was safe." More:

  • Company cites "outside parties." In a statement before the town hall meeting, Norfolk Southern said it was "increasingly concerned about the growing physical threat to our employees and members of the community around this event stemming from the increasing likelihood of the participation of outside parties," CBS News reports. On Tuesday, the rail company said it was creating a $1 million charitable fund to help the community of around 4,700 people.

  • Residents voice frustrations. The mayor agreed to a question-and-answer session after a resident complained that the format had been switched from a town hall event to an open house with state, federal, and local officials, Fox reports. "Everybody that came here expected a hell of a lot more than what we're getting right now," the resident said. State officials insisted that the air was safe to breathe, despite bad smells, though residents voiced concerns about the lingering effect of toxic chemicals and the deaths of thousands of fish. Some said they were experiencing health issues, including headaches.
  • Norfolk's 'cop-out.' Danielle Deal, who lives a few miles from the derailment site, said officials "just danced around the questions a lot," the AP reports. "Norfolk needed to be here." She said the company's decision not to attend the event was a "cop-out."
  • A question that couldn't be answered. The Dispatch reports that nobody at the event could provide a direct answer when one woman shouted, "Why are people getting sick if there's nothing in the air or water?" US Rep. Bill Johnson said anybody who experienced symptoms of any kind after the derailment should contact their doctor.
  • Class-action lawsuit filed. WKBN reports that injury firm Morgan & Morgan filed a class-action suit in federal court Wednesday, alleging that the rail company's cleanup efforts worsened the situation. "I'm not sure Norfolk Southern could have come up with a worse plan to address this disaster," said attorney John Morgan. "The lawsuit alleges that Norfolk Southern made it worse by essentially blasting the town with chemicals as they focused on restoring train service and protecting their shareholders."
  • What the train was carrying. Norfolk Southern says around 20 of the train's cars were carrying hazardous materials. The New York Times lists the chemicals involved, including vinyl chloride, and the potential health issues.
(More train crash stories.)

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