Norfolk Southern to end payments for relocated East Palestine residents

Railroad started relocation assistance after February derailment
An aerial photo shows cleanup and remediation continuing near the site of the Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern freight train derailment, Saturday, July 15, 2023, in East Palestine. (Matt Freed for the Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: (Matt Freed for the Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: (Matt Freed for the Atlanta Journal Constitution)

An aerial photo shows cleanup and remediation continuing near the site of the Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern freight train derailment, Saturday, July 15, 2023, in East Palestine. (Matt Freed for the Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Atlanta-based Norfolk Southern said it will soon stop paying for hotel rooms and living expenses for residents of East Palestine, Ohio, who relocated out of the city after the railroad’s February derailment of a train carrying hazardous materials there.

The company said it will end its temporary relocation assistance payments to residents on Feb. 9, 2024, a little over a year after the Feb. 3, 2023 train wreck.

Fewer than 100 families are still using the assistance, according to the railroad. The town has a population of about 4,700.

The temporary relocation assistance has been one of several aid programs Norfolk Southern started in the aftermath of the derailment. The company said in October that it had tallied $966 million in expenses for cleanup and response to the East Palestine derailment, including $803 million in the first half of the year.

Norfolk Southern said it is planning to discontinue the funding, now that it has finished the work of excavating and removing contaminated soil from the derailment site.

“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,” said Will Harden, senior director of legal claims at Norfolk Southern, in a written statement. “We’re directly helping those families with their plans to return home, understanding everyone’s situation is unique.”

The company said it is offering a program to clean the homes of residents who relocated, if their homes haven’t already been cleaned by Norfolk Southern or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Norfolk Southern also has a program to compensate homeowners for lost value in their homes in East Palestine, and committed $4.3 million for protection of drinking water. Including other donations and expenses, the company says it has committed more than $103 million to East Palestine and surrounding areas in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

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