EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WKBN) — On Thursday, Norfolk Southern announced a nearly $4.3 million investment into drinking water infrastructure in East Palestine.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency continues testing the water for contamination following February’s train derailment. So far, the EPA says no issues have been found. But if the water is safe, why did Norfolk Southern contribute that much money to drinking water safety?
Norfolk Southern is donating carbon filters to the village of East Palestine for its municipal water supply.
“These are very large filters — 23 feet high, 10 feet in diameter. Very big,” said Scott Wolfe, East Palestine’s water and wastewater superintendent.
Wolfe says the $4.299 million will be spent in three phases: purchasing the filters, engineering costs and the bulk of the money will be spent on a 4,200-square-foot building to house the filters. The monetary commitment includes $661,481 already reimbursed to the village for new carbon filters and initial engineering, as well as $3.638 million to fund additional engineering and new filtration technology and infrastructure.
“The last phase would be the construction, installation, all of that for the carbon filters, $3.6 million,” Wolfe said.
Construction has already begun beside the current wastewater plant.
“Our current system, like other municipal systems across the country, is focused on eliminating heavy metals like lead, but these upgrades go deeper and broader, using the leading methods for ensuring the quality of drinking water,” said East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway.
Wolfe says the village’s water is still being tested weekly. These filters are out of an abundance of caution in case of future contamination.
“This is a contingency plan being put in place. It by no means [means] that something has come across as a contaminant. It’s just putting filters in place if, down the line, something were to happen. We will have the treatment in place where we can just say, ‘Hey, we’re good to go,'” Wolfe said.
Conaway says overall, village leadership is satisfied with Norfolk Southern’s clean-up efforts.
“There are some small things, not necessarily with Norfolk Southern, with the EPA that maybe a little more testing could be done. There are some concerned residents in town that would like a little more testing. But as far as making the village whole and getting back everything that we needed that got destroyed during the train wreck, that is happening,” Conaway said.
To date, Norfolk Southern says it has committed $74.3 million to East Palestine and the surrounding communities following the February 2023 train derailment.
Laurel Stone contributed to this report.