Two members of the Ohio National Guard wearing hazmat suits after the East Palestine train derailment

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Looking for East Palestine, Ohio train derailment updates? How are the cleanup efforts going? How was the local community affected?

A year after a catastrophic train derailment in Ohio led to a massive chemical spill, clean-up efforts are nearing conclusion—but health concerns linger. While government officials assert that the environment is safe, some East Palestine residents remain concerned.

Below is a look at the steps that have been taken to manage the derailment fallout and a look at the regulatory actions that have been implemented since.

Image Source: The National Guard

Ohio Train Derailment Updates

A year after a devastating train derailment led to a massive chemical spill in Ohio, the anticipated safety revolution in the rail industry appears to have gone off track. Alarming statistics reveal a surge in train accidents since the East Palestine incident, casting doubts on the rail industry’s commitment to safety reforms.

Here are the Ohio train derailment updates as of February 2024.


On February 3, 2023, disaster struck East Palestine, Ohio when a Norfolk Southern train derailed, sending 38 cars off the tracks. The train was carrying a dangerous payload, with 20 of the derailed cars transporting hazardous materials.

As fires erupted and fears grew that the tankers loaded with vinyl chloride might explode, authorities decided to perform a controlled burn and release of the chemical. The burn released a plume of chemicals that forced the evacuation of residents in the immediate areas. Those in nearby communities reported experiencing health issues including headaches and rashes. Soil and local waterways in the area suffered contamination from the released chemicals. 

Cleanup Progress

Norfolk Southern has spent over $800 million on site remediation, including railcar removal, environmental damage assessment, and extraction and replacement of 174,000 tons of toxic soil with clean soil and limestone. With cleanup in its final stages, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that East Palestine’s water and air are safe to drink and breathe.

Community Impact

Despite significant progress on site remediation, residents of East Palestine continue to suffer the aftereffects of the derailment. Divisions are evident within the community, with public disagreement about the derailment’s impact on residents’ health and the effectiveness of the cleanup. 

  • Many are frustrated with state and federal agencies’ response to the incident—unsure of who to hold accountable as each body appears to pass the buck to the next. 
  • Further fueling community tensions, some residents have joined a lawsuit against Norfolk Southern

Regulatory Actions

In September, the Biden administration allocated $1.4 billion for rail safety and infrastructure upgrades, and last month introduced new regulations requiring trains transporting hazardous chemicals to carry emergency breathing equipment—a move the rail sector’s top lobbying group argued would burden freight railroads with “excessive proposed cost impacts.”

Norfolk Southern recently confirmed its participation in a trial of the Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS), which enables railway staff to anonymously report “near-miss” railroad accidents they witness without fear of disciplinary action. However, other major freight railroads haven’t followed suit.

Most notably, Congress’s bipartisan Railway Safety Act, conceived in the crash aftermath, has been stalled by industry opposition.

Post-Derailment Increases

Following the East Palestine incident, the number of US train derailments has increased: Between February and October 2023, derailments on major US freight railroads rose 13%.

Despite major train operators’ promises to improve rail parts inspections, derailments attributed to wheel bearing problems are on the rise.

Railway insiders say the industry is in a dire state, riddled with hazards, staff shortages, and other problems stemming from poor management and owner greed.

Looking Ahead

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is set to release its final report on the East Palestine derailment in May or June. Experts say that while the incident has fueled the push for substantial rail safety reform, the stalling of crucial safety legislation sends a troubling signal for the future. Without substantial reforms, the risk of similar incidents will persist nationwide.

2024 East Palestine, Ohio Train Derailment Updates

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Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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