Ohio files federal lawsuit against Norfolk Southern over East Palestine derailment, state's attorney general says

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By Artemis Moshtaghian, CNN

(CNN) -- Ohio has filed a federal lawsuit against Norfolk Southern over last month's toxic chemical derailment in East Palestine, Attorney General Dave Yost announced Tuesday.

Yost outlined the 58-count complaint, saying that Norfolk Southern violated numerous state, federal and Ohio common laws and violated the state's Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).

"This derailment was entirely avoidable," Yost said at a news conference Tuesday. "I'm concerned that Norfolk Southern may be putting profits for their own company above the health and safety of the cities and communities they operate in."

The attorney general went on to point out that the derailment "caused the release of over 1 million gallons of hazardous chemicals and it endangered both the health and area residents of Ohio's natural resources."

After the derailment, the dangerous chemical vinyl chloride was released and burned to prevent a potentially deadly explosion, and other chemicals of concern that were being transported are feared to have leaked into the surrounding ecosystem in Ohio and Pennsylvania -- with potentially damaging health consequences.

CNN has reached out to Norfolk Southern for comment.

Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw told a US Senate hearing last week, "I am determined to make this right. Norfolk Southern will clean the site safely, thoroughly and with urgency. You have my personal commitment. Norfolk Southern will get the job done and help East Palestine thrive."

Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders pressed Shaw on health care needs in East Palestine, asking if his vow to help the community following the train derailment will include paying for health care costs for residents.

Shaw did not make a definitive commitment, but said that "everything is on the table."

The company previously announced new safety measures for its rail network, including revamping its hot bearing detector network.

"Hot bearing" or "hot box" detectors use infrared sensors to record the temperatures of railroad bearings as trains pass by. If they sense an overheated bearing, the detectors trigger an alarm, which notifies the train crew they should stop and inspect the rail car for a potential failure.

After the February 3 fiery derailment in East Palestine, investigators discovered hot bearing sensors detected a wheel bearing heating up miles before it eventually failed -- but didn't alert the train's crew until it was too late, according to a February 23 preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board.

CNN is reviewing the lawsuit and this story will be updated.

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