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Norfolk Southern Corp.’s plan to remove wrecked rail cars from a derailment that resulted in potentially poisonous gas being released over an Ohio town will destroy evidence of the company’s liability, lawyers for residents say.

Lawyers in proposed class-action lawsuits over the February 3 accident on February 24 asked a federal judge to block the company from clearing the wreckage in East Palestine, Ohio. According to the lawyers, Norfolk Southern informed them February 13 that it planned to move the 11 rail cars by March 1 and would make them available for inspection for only two days.

Adam Gomez, a lawyer for East Palestine residents, said in a court filing that it was “common sense” to keep the wreckage where it is for now. “These communities have questions, and we need the evidence to answer them,” he said.

The derailment of the freight train headed to Pennsylvania from Illinois released toxic chemicals and prompted a brief evacuation of local residents. Norfolk Southern, along with the governors of Ohio and Pennsylvania, decided to initiate a controlled burn of the chemicals to mitigate the explosion risk. But East Palestine residents have since blamed the resulting cloud for reported headaches, lingering odors and pet deaths.

Norfolk Southern representatives didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment. In a February 23 letter to residents’ lawyers, the company said that, after March 1, “the rail cars will be removed or otherwise destroyed so that Norfolk Southern can continue its work at the site.”

Federal officials cleared Norfolk Southern February 26 to resume shipments of hazardous waste from the East Palestine site after ensuring the company’s handling of spilled materials met U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approval. The train had about 20 cars containing chemicals including vinyl chloride — considered a carcinogen — as well as ethylhexyl acrylate and isobutylene, according to the EPA.

“Simply put, two days of access when Norfolk Southern will have had more than 24 days of access is not reasonable,” Gomez said in the filing.

U.S. District Judge Benita Pearson in Youngstown, Ohio, is overseeing cases about the disaster. Pearson suggested at a hearing February 27 that Norfolk Southern give the plaintiffs until March 3 to inspect the five cars carrying the vinyl chloride and move other cars that didn’t have that chemical to another site to give expert witnesses more time to study them, according to court filings.

If both sides don’t agree to that plan, the judge said she’d issue a formal ruling on the plaintiffs’ request to halt removal operations.

The case Erdos v. Norfolk Southern Corp., 23-cv-00268, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio (Youngstown).

Source: https://www.supplychainbrain.com/articles/36716-norfolk-southern-accused-of-trying-to-destroy-evidence-of-ohio-wreck