Ohio U.S. Lawmakers Demand Norfolk Southern Pay for Damages in Last Year’s Sandusky Train

Three Ohio U.S. lawmakers are demanding that Norfolk Southern, the same company that caused the toxic train disaster in East Palestine earlier this year, pay for damages caused by a train derailment that occurred in Sandusky, Ohio last October.

Ohio U.S. Senators JD Vance (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) as well as U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-09) sent a letter to Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw on Wednesday demanding that the railroad “take responsibility and pay immediately for costs to repair the damage” by the Sandusky wreck.

On October 8th, approximately 20 cars derailed on the bridge over Columbus Avenue, spilling paraffin wax into the roadway and delaying the cars and Amtrak passenger trains.

In contrast to the derailment in East Palestine that featured hazardous substances like vinyl chloride, there was no significant environmental risk following the Sandusky incident. However, the city’s stormwater system met with significant damage as a result of the accident, along with electrical and traffic control systems, pavement, sidewalks, pedestrian safety devices, and retaining walls.

According to the lawmakers, Norfolk Southern must be held responsible for these damages.

“Norfolk Southern must take responsibility for the damages suffered by the city of Sandusky and its residents,” the lawmakers said.

The letter claims that while cleaning up, Norfolk Southern’s workers harmed the region more. Officials claim that although the business allegedly agreed to pay back the city and a construction firm for repairs, that has not yet happened. The lawmakers said that they expect Norfolk Southern “to fully reimburse the city of Sandusky for damages due to the derailment.”

The lawmakers cited a ProPublica report in their letter, which stated that Norfolk Southern has a policy allowing “a monitoring team to instruct crews to ignore alerts from the train track sensors designed to flag potential mechanical problems.” According to additional reports, a Norfolk Southern dispatcher informed the crew that, despite discovering an overheated wheel that would later cause the Sandusky accident, a supervisor decided the train should proceed without turning off the engine.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) did not investigate the Sandusky derailment.

This report has striking similarities to the East Palestine derailment. According to the NTSB investigation, the derailment was caused by a hot axle on one of the cars.

According to the lawmakers, the reoccurring Norfolk Southern incidents have shown a need for new railway safety measures.

“Ohioans are rightfully concerned about the safety of railroads traveling through their communities. The Norfolk Southern derailments in Ohio have highlighted many known deficiencies in safety practices in the freight rail industry,” the lawmakers said.

Both Vance and Brown have sponsored the Railway Safety Act of 2023, requiring that trains carrying hazardous materials be scanned by wayside defect detectors, or “hotbox detectors,” every 10 miles to prevent future derailments caused by faulty wheel bearings. It stipulates that railroad companies must provide advance notification to state emergency response commissions when transporting hazardous materials. It requires railroads to operate with at least two-person crews. It also, increases the maximum fine for rail safety violations.

Last week, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed a nearly $13.5 billion state transportation budget last week, including rail safety measures that lawmakers added in reaction to the February 3rd train derailment and toxic chemical spill in East Palestine.

The lawmakers asked Shaw to respond to the letter within two weeks.

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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Norfolk Southern Train” by James St. John. CC BY 2.0.




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