EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (WKBN) — The man in charge of the Norfolk Southern railroad returned to East Palestine on Saturday to see for himself how the cleanup of the train derailment and subsequent controlled release is going.
For the second time since the train derailment, Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw was back in East Palestine. He met with the mayor, the fire chief and Congressman Bill Johnson, and with an employee of Norfolk Southern who lives in town, as well as employees and neighbors.
He was also at the meeting in-person the Monday after derailment when the decision was made regarding the controlled release.
Shaw said the company remains committed to the long-term cleanup of whatever happens here. Norfolk Southern has set up a command center in a former East Palestine School.
“This has been devastating to this community,” said Shaw. “I want to make sure you understand, I am terribly sorry that this happened to the community. Norfolk Southern is fully committed to doing what’s right for this community.”
Shaw said the decision of a controlled release was the correct one and that the “terrifying” plume of smoke following the detonation signaled success, as it prevented a “much riskier event” due to the chemicals contained in the rail cars.
Norfolk Southern is offering $1,000 per person to all those with a 44413 zip code and Beaver County’s evacuation zone.
Boney: “Are you making them sign documents to tell people they won’t sue further if they can’t ask for more money?”
Shaw: “No. Not at all. All they have to do is sign their name and say they’ve received a thousand dollars.”
If the new tracks that have already been laid down need removed to clean up the hazardous soil underneath, Norfolk Southern will get it done, Shaw said.
Shaw is pleased with the clean up so far. However, he acknowledged that he didn’t know where all the hazardous soil and liquid is being shipped to.
Shaw: “We’re taking it to landfills that are designed to handle that type of material.“
Boney: “What city and state? “
Shaw: “I don’t have that information.”
Boney: “You don’t know where they’re going now.”
Shaw said he understands why people — including former President Donald Trump and Erin Brockovich — want to make appearances here.
“I understand why this has created a lot of national attention,” says Shaw. “What we’re trying to do is work really closely with the local leaders on the environmental remediation, getting information right, data-based, science-based information.”
When asked about the calls for stricter regulations on the railroad industry, Shaw said to wait on the report from the National Transportation Safety Board.
“All the misinformation out there — that’s really causing a lot of issues, frankly, for the people of this community. We support the NTSB’s investigation,” Shaw said.
Shaw would not give a timeline for how long the company will remain in town or how much money the company will spend in East Palestine.