Norfolk Southern Opens New Family Assistance Center in East Palestine

Norfolk Southern announced an additional initiative to support the community of East Palestine following the catastrophic train derailment that occurred earlier this year.

The railway giant signed a two-year lease agreement for a new, closer, and more permanent Family Assistance Center (FAC) that will replace the current center located at the Abundant Life Fellowship Church. The original FAC was set up within 24 hours of the incident on February 3rd.

According to Norfolk Southern’s Senior Director of Legal Claims Will Harden, Norfolk Southern is “committed to supporting and being a part of the East Palestine community for the long haul.”

“The new location of our Family Assistance Center will help us support area residents and ensure they have the support they need,” Harden said.

The FAC, Norfolk Southern says, is an accessible, long-term resource for questions, concerns, and assistance.

Norfolk Southern says that East Palestine residents who are visiting the FAC should bring the following:

• Driver’s license or other government-issued identification
• Proof of residency (e.g. current utility bill, etc.).
• For minors residing in the household, proof of dependency (e.g. minor child’s
birth certificate or Social Security card).
• Receipts for any out-of-pocket expenses.

The new FAC at Rebecca’s Place in East Palestine will officially open on Tuesday.

This is the latest commitment that Norfolk Southern has made to the community in response to the February 3rd derailment.
Earlier this month, CEO Alan Shaw announced that Norfolk Southern Railroad will set up a fund to compensate East Palestine homeowners for losses in property value due to the train derailment that spilled hazardous chemicals into the community.

On February 3rd, 50 train carriages, 10 of which were carrying hazardous materials, derailed as a result of a technical problem with a rail car axle, according to federal authorities. There was vinyl chloride in five of the vehicles. Hundreds of residents evacuated as a result of the controlled release of poisonous gasses that Norfolk Southern carried out on February 6th to stop an explosion.

Officials told East Palestine residents on February 8th that they could safely go home, despite the reports of hundreds of dead fish in the Ohio River near East Palestine and residents complaining of headaches and illness since the derailment.

Despite assurances from government officials that they are safe, many members of the community said they are fearful and nervous about their exposure to the chemicals and said they are concerned about the quality of the air and drinking water. Some residents have been living in hotels until they are convinced that their homes are safe.

Norfolk Southern faces a lawsuit from Ohio’s Attorney General Dave Yost over costs for the cleanup of the toxic chemical spill and environmental damage, even as they collaborate to establish funds for resident health care, property value issues, and water protections. The federal government is also suing the railroad.

Norfolk Southern is also facing a special investigation launched by the National Transportation Safety Board that it said will look into the company’s organization and safety.

An update from Governor Mike DeWine‘s office says that the cleanup of the track area is near completion. After this work is finished, Norfolk Southern contractors will begin working on other areas that were directly impacted by the derailment and response operations, including the wreckage yards, as well as the north and south ditches.

According to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Norfolk Southern has hauled approximately 19.3 million gallons of liquid wastewater out of East Palestine in total. There is currently a pile of approximately 14,400 tons of excavated soil waiting for removal from East Palestine, versus 51,100 tons that Norfolk Southern has removed.

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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 “Rebecca Place” by Rebecca Place.


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