Ohio residents filed a class action lawsuit on Thursday against the railroad company Norfolk Southern after a train carrying toxic chemicals derailed in early February and cast a toxic plume of chemicals over the town and polluting the air and water, according to the lawsuit filed.
Johnson and Johnson, a Youngstown, Ohio, based firm, and Hagens Berman represent residents within a 30-mile radius of the East Palestine crash site, according to the lawsuit’s text.
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According to reports, at least eleven of the derailed train cars contained highly toxic raw chemicals, and in the days following the crash, residents reported dizziness, coughing, chest pain, shortness of breath, and eye irritation, all of which are symptoms of exposure to the chemicals which the derailment unleashed on the area.
The derailment caused nearly 2,000 residents to be temporarily evacuated and toxic chemicals including vinyl chloride contaminated the community.
The lawsuit invokes the legal doctrine of “public nuisance” because the residents’ exposure to the chemicals created “conditions that are harmful to health and interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life and property,” the text reads.
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“This happened in our backyard, to our friends, neighbors, and clients. We are committed to helping our community recover,” said Nils Johnson, Jr., Johnson and Johnson attorney who serves as co-counsel, said in a press release. “The sheer scale of the destruction is staggering. The true extent of the damage may not reveal itself for years to come. Norfolk Southern needs to take responsibility now and provide the people of East Palestine and Columbiana County with the resources they need for a healthy future.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tested more than 500 homes and found “no exceedances for residential air quality standards,” according to its website.
University researchers released an analysis of EPA data Friday which suggests that the air quality could result in health concerns including skin irritation and cancer.
The EPA and government officials including EPA Administrator Michael Regan and Republican Gov. Mike DeWine also maintain the water is safe to drink and attempted to prove it by drinking local water on camera.
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“All of our lawsuit’s proposed benefits (monetary damages for all injured businesses & residents/individuals within 30 miles of the derailment, establishment of testing & cleaning protocols, a medical monitoring fund, injunctive relief oversight to Norfolk Southern’s safety & compliance programs) would be above and beyond what the EPA would have for residents,” Steve Berman said, according to the Hill. “Additionally, we will want a say in what an effective cleanup is.”
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