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Another Norfolk Southern train derails in Ohio

An aerial view of a Norfolk Southern Train Derailment, which sent more than 20 cars sliding off the tracks on Saturday near Springfield, Ohio.
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An aerial view of a Norfolk Southern Train Derailment, which sent more than 20 cars sliding off the tracks on Saturday near Springfield, Ohio.

A Norfolk Southern train derailed Saturday evening in Springfield, Ohio, sending 28 cars sliding diagonally across the tracks but injuring no one, according to several state and local agencies.

The crash marks the rail line's second major derailment in just over a month and comes amid lingering questions about environmental and public health in nearby East Palestine, where a train carrying toxic chemicals derailed on Feb. 3.

Officials stressed that the cars that derailed this weekend were not carrying toxic materials and the incident does not pose a threat to the community.

Both the Clark County emergency management agency and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency examined the site and deemed it safe.

"There is NO risk to the public," said Norfolk Southern spokesperson Connor Spielmaker on Twitter.

"We're looking at clean air, clean soil and clean water," said Clark County health commissioner Charles Patterson in a Sunday press conference. "There have been multiple sweeps by multiple teams."

The train was traveling just outside Springfield city limits en route to Birmingham, Ala., when 28 cars jumped the tracks around 4:45 pm, according to Kraig Barner, Norfolk Southern general manager for the northern region.

Local authorities imposed a precautionary shelter-in-place order for residents within 1,000 feet of the derailment, which impacted four or five residential homes, said Springfield Fire Chief Dave Nagel. The order was lifted 10 hours later.

Initial assessments of the scene were slowed by downed power lines, Nagel said, which left 1,500 residents without power in the county on Saturday. State Route 41 remained closed as of Monday morning, its asphalt cracked by the incident.

Four nearly empty tankers were among the derailed cars, carrying residual levels of diesel exhaust fluid and a polyacrylamide water solution, said Springfield hazmat coordinator Matt Smith. The Ohio Emergency Management Agency described the materials as "common industrial products shipped via railroad."

Fire Chief Nagel said crews found dried liquid on the outside of a tanker, but assumed it was sludge that splashed up from the derailment itself. His team detected no leaks on the tankers.

One hopper containing non-toxic PVC pellets did spill its contents onto nearby soil, but doesn't pose a health risk. Ohio EPA Director Anne Vogel said her team would remain on site for cleanup.

"If there's anything we've learned so far, it's that transparency matters, encouraging facts not misinformation," Vogel said, thanking local agencies for their swift response. "We will continue to be good partners in getting the facts out."

The cause of the crash is still unknown. The National Transportation Safety Board said it would send investigators to the scene on Sunday.

Norfolk Southern is still facing scrutiny for its role in the crash near East Palestine that spilled hundreds of thousands of pounds of toxic chemicals into a town with 4,700 residents. Some have since reported rashes and lingering foul smells, sparking calls for increased railroad safety and rail line accountability.

The railroad's sensors had failed to detect an overheated wheel bearing which eventually gave out altogether, the NTSB said in its preliminary report on the crash.

Norfolk Southern has agreed to pay for East Palestine and neighboring residents to relocate during the cleanup, the EPA announced Monday.

"At EPA's request, Norfolk Southern has agreed to provide additional financial assistance to residents of the East Palestine area, including the portions of Pennsylvania within a mile of the derailment site," the EPA said in a news release. This assistance may include temporary lodging, travel, food, clothing, and other necessities."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: March 8, 2023 at 12:00 AM EST
An earlier version of this story incorrectly said officials told reporters that none of the train's 212 cars were carrying hazardous materials. In fact, Norfolk Southern General Manager Kraig Barner confirmed the train included several cars of liquid propane and several cars carrying ethanol, but none of those came off the tracks.
Emily Olson
Emily Olson is on a three-month assignment as a news writer and live blog editor, helping shape NPR's digital breaking news strategy.