Norfolk Southern will reimburse expenses and inconvenience compensation to residents living within a one-mile radius of the derailment.
EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — It’s been two days since then officials gave permission for residents to return to their homes in Eastern Palestine following the fiery train derailed last week.
“We could just smell the chemicals coming into our house,” resident Regan Parker said.
With the aftermath still lingering, some in the community told 3News they are left feeling helpless.
“My mattress, my couches, they just smell like chemicals,” Parker said. “My clothes, we’re washing everything now trying to get rid of the chemical smell.”
Parker said she lives outside the one-mile radius that has been set up as an evacuation zone, but officials at the south Norfolk Family Assistance Center told her she was not entitled to compensation or $1,000 in inconvenience payments.
“They just told me that since I wasn’t in a one-mile evacuation zone, the best they could do for me was to have someone come into my house and clean it up,” Parker said.
Cleveland attorney Michael O’Shea said he represents a number of injured residents of East Palestine. He said he was concerned that the inconvenience charges could deprive residents of any opportunity to make further claims down the road.
“We were worried that if somebody gets that check, takes that check for an inconvenience fee, they’re giving up any future right to make any claims that can’t be determined now,” O’Shea said.
Norfolk Southern did tell 3News that “acceptance of these reimbursements and/or compensation for inconvenience is not a settlement of any future claim.”
Parker said many of her neighbors are still struggling with the decision to return home, worried about what may be left behind.
“A lot of people are afraid to come home, a lot of people haven’t. We really just didn’t have the means to stay away from home any longer,” Parker said.
3News reached out to Norfolk Southern for comment on the payments, and a spokesperson said:
“South Norfolk continues to reimburse residents affected by the evacuation, in addition to compensation for evacuation inconvenience through our Family Assistance Center. As part of this program, I can confirm that residents who live within a one-mile radius of a derailment are eligible for a $1,000 inconvenience fee.”
EPA offers a voluntary accommodation entries for on-air viewings offered across south Norfolk. As of Thursday evening, the organization said it had tested indoor air in a total of 46 homes, with at least 400 more requests remaining. To speed up the selection process, Norfolk Southern and the EPA are bringing in more teams and equipment.
The Ohio EPA is investigating water impacts and possible remedial measures by collecting water samples from nearby waterways and Sulfur Run, where a dam was installed to prevent further contamination.