EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (AP) — The president of Norfolk Southern made a visit to East Palestine, Ohio, on Saturday following criticism from residents and political leaders about the company’s response to the fiery derailment of a freight train carrying toxic materials earlier this month.
Fox Business reports that company president and CEO Alan Shaw told reporters Saturday he was there “to support the community” but declined further comment.
Earlier in the week, representatives of Norfolk Southern were absent from a public meeting attended by hundreds of people, with officials saying they were worried about physical threats. Gov. Mike DeWine was upset by the no-show at the Wednesday meeting and said Shaw needed to go to East Palestine and answer questions.
Norfolk Southern said in a statement Friday that it was “committed to coordinating the cleanup project and paying for its associated costs,” saying the company wanted to ensure that East Palestine’s residents and natural environment “not only recover but thrive.”
“Our company will be working tirelessly every day to get East Palestine back on its feet as soon as possible,” Shaw said in the statement. “We know we will be judged by our actions, and we are taking this accountability and responsibility very seriously.”
Despite repeated assurances that air and water testing has shown no signs of contaminants, residents of the town along the Pennsylvania state line have complained about lingering headaches and irritated eyes and some have said they are afraid to return to their homes. DeWine said a medical clinic opening early next week to evaluate residents and analyze their symptoms will include a team of experts in chemical exposures being deployed to eastern Ohio.
Chemicals that spilled into nearby creeks killed thousands of fish, and a smaller amount made it into the Ohio River. While officials said the contamination posed no threat, cities in Ohio and West Virginia that get their drinking water from the river were monitoring a slow-moving plume and a few temporarily switched to alternative water sources.