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'I am stressed through the roof': Norfolk Southern holds its first meeting in East Palestine since derailment

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Posted at 5:49 AM, Mar 03, 2023

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — Thursday night was the first time Norfolk Southern spoke with residents in East Palestine since the train derailment on Feb. 3. Darrell Wilson, a representative with the company, was the sole representative to speak on behalf of the company during a second town hall meeting.

"We are sorry; we are very sorry. We feel horrible about it," he said to the crowd, who responded with chatter.

It's been nearly one month since the lives of East Palestine residents and surrounding communities lives have been altered. While Wilson appeared in front of the group during the town hall, just next door, at a resource fair, company representatives were available to answer one-on-one questions with residents.

'It's been hell," said Scott Berresford, a resident who lives near the derailment site. "I am stressed through the roof, like completely stressed out. I don't know if we're going to be sick three years from now [or] five years from now. If I stay here, is it doing the right thing?"

He and others came to get their questions answered and to hear from the railroad company, which previously bowed out of one of the first town hall meetings over safety concerns of its workers.

"I definitely feel like they should've been here last time," said East Palestine resident Christina Siceloff. "They didn't mention that they were afraid last time."

On Thursday, the rail company shared its plan to remove the tracks at the derailment site and clean up the mess left behind. This includes removing all of the materials on the track bed and rebuilding it.

"We couldn't even remediate the northside [of the derailment] until we [Norfolk Southern] could get those care out of there," said Wilson. "We don't know when that's going to take place, so we are going to start on the southside, and then sometime March 28 or 29, knock on wood for good, we'll start the north track."

The derailment
Dozens of cars, including 10 carrying hazardous materials, derailed in a fiery crash on Feb. 3 in East Palestine. Vinyl chloride was later released into the air from five of those cars before crews ignited it to eliminate the highly flammable, toxic chemicals in a controlled environment, creating a dark plume of smoke.

Residents from nearby neighborhoods in Ohio and Pennsylvania were evacuated because of health risks from the fumes but were told on Feb. 8 that it was safe to return home.

The National Transportation Safety Board has since released its initial report on the derailment, stating the train crew tried to stop the train in East Palestine when they received an alert about one of the car's wheel bearings overheating to a critical temperature of over 250 degrees above the ambient temperature.

This article was written by Scripps News Cleveland