OPINION: Companies need to act fast and address issues before more train derailments occur


Kaitlynn Devitt / Hilltop Views

One of the many train intersections located throughout the Austin community. If a train derailment were to occur, it would massively affect neighborhoods and busy streets.

It seems like the state of Ohio just can’t catch a break with train derailments! On Feb. 3, about 50 cars carrying toxic materials were derailed, and yet another derailment happened just weeks after this first occurrence. On March 4, 38 cars slid across the track.  Luckily, this train was not carrying any toxic materials and no one was injured.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency , they have ordered Norfolk Southern to pay the costs for the cleanup from the train derailment associated with the Feb. 3 derailment. The EPA wants them to cover multiple costs, such as reimbursing the agency for cleaning services, identifying and cleaning contaminated soil and water and offering cleaning services to residents and businesses. 

In my opinion, Norfolk Southern should have already done their part and started paying for these costs right after the accident was reported. There is no reason as to why residents had to go weeks without knowing whether they were safe in their own homes for anyone to step in and start conducting experiments. 

I think that with technological advancements and better paying jobs, train companies are struggling with employee shortages. They do not have enough employees to research which tracks need repairs or  if there are enough employees to man moving trains.

Norfolk Southern company will likely shift the blame to other things like a train error or broken rails — or in the case of the Feb. 3 derailment which was caused by overheated wheel bearing. It all comes down to the fact that Norfolk Southern is experiencing a shortage of employees. This is hard for the company to admit but even harder to deny. If the company had enough employees, then repairs would be happening often enough to prevent any derailments before they even occur. If the company had enough employees, they would have been present in Ohio as soon as possible when a train derailment occurred. This is the way it should be, but this is not the case. Because Norfolk Southern is experiencing a staff shortage, outside agencies like the EPA are having to come in and give aid to these residents and businesses. 

It’s ridiculous that the EPA had to step in at all and that they had to go after Norfolk Southern with these fees. “We recognize that we have a responsibility, and we have committed to doing what’s right for the residents of East Palestine,” Norfolk Southern said in a statement on Feb. 21. “We have been paying for the cleanup activities to date and will continue to do so.”

So even though they have stepped up somewhat to pay these fees, they are not attacking the root of this problem, which I believe is their employee shortage. Another train derailment has occurred; if this one was carrying toxic materials like the first one, Norfolk Southern would be experiencing so many more lawsuits than they are already facing.

I just hope the Norfolk Southern company fixes this problem before another train derailment occurs, putting more lives at risk.