With most of the “intensive” remediation work complete following Norfolk Southern’s (NS) Feb. 3 derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, the Class I on Dec. 5 reported turning its focus to long-term initiatives, including the next phase of community assistance in the village and surrounding areas in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
“We’re proud of the progress we’ve made toward fully remediating the site, and helping the community recover,” NS President and CEO Alan Shaw said. “But we know there is more work to do. We’ll continue keeping our promises and listening to the community. Together, we’re focused on economic development to help the East Palestine community thrive for the long term.”
To date, NS said it has committed more than $103 million to East Palestine and the surrounding areas. Key contributions include:
- For first responders: $25 million to fund a regional safety training center for first responders, located in East Palestine; $5 million to cover costs of Pennsylvania state agencies and local fire departments that responded to the derailment; and $3 million reimbursed and committed to the East Palestine Fire Department for equipment and vehicles.
- For community support: $25 million for upgrades and renovations to East Palestine City Park; $4.2 million to Pennsylvania communities to support local events and grants for nonprofits; $1 million donation to the East Palestine School District for academics, interscholastic athletics and long-term development; $1 million for community priorities as determined by an East Palestine-based NS Community Liaison, informed by residents and business leaders; $534,000 to fund a state-run Community Resiliency Center to address mental health issues; and $300,000 to support the East Palestine Community Foundation.
According to NS, assistance going forward will include both new and existing initiatives for economic development and resident support:
- $4.3 million commitment for the long-term protection of East Palestine drinking water.
- An interim Home Value Assurance Program to compensate any reduction in value of certain residential properties located in East Palestine, Ohio, and some surrounding communities following the February derailment.
- $500,000 for an economic development agency to work with East Palestine community leaders.
- A kick-off Economic Development Roundtable, in partnership with the Ohio Economic Development Authority, which was held Nov. 30.
- Construction of NS’s permanent East Palestine field office.
NS reported that since major excavation and soil removal activities were completed at the end of October, including the opening of Taggart Street, temporary relocation assistance to residents who chose to move during soil excavation efforts will conclude Feb. 9, 2024.
“The Family Assistance Center will be reaching out to those residents who temporarily relocated to ensure they know what benefits and support will remain in place, and the options that are available to them,” NS Senior Director of Legal Claims Will Harden said. “We’re directly helping those families with their plans to return home, understanding everyone’s situation is unique.”
According to the railroad, there have been more than 11,540 family visits to the Family Assistance Center through November, with the railroad providing more than $20.7 million in direct financial assistance to families.
Further Reading: NS Issues East Palestine Progress Report