Gov. Josh Shapiro says he has secured an “initial commitment” from Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw to pay millions to Pennsylvania for damages from the Feb. 3 train derailment that impacted residents in Beaver and Lawrence counties.
Fire was the initial call for concern for those on the ground in East Palestine.
“There was nearly a quarter mile of solid fire that was burning intense, buildings being threatened had to be protected,” said Fire Chief Mark Stowe in Beaver Falls.
Some of the firefighters on that front line were from right in Beaver Falls.
“During the night when we were fighting the fire, the strong odor of chemicals became apparent. That’s when we were advised anybody that had worked the scene, the gear was more than likely contaminated and should be taken out of service and replaced,” Stowe said.
“I’m very hopeful we will be reimbursed for our losses,” Stowe said.
That money is starting to come in from Norfolk Southern, with the governor’s office announcing $5 million will go to local fire departments in Western Pennsylvania to replace gear.
Plus, another $1 million will be part of a community relief fund to be run by Beaver and Lawrence County leaders to support the residents.
“One of my biggest concerns going forward is in addition to getting all the testing done and (being) able to make sure the people understand the water ground and air is safe. Making sure we have ongoing monitoring,” said Beaver County Commissioner Jack Manning.
It’s unclear if that funding will be used to help with ongoing testing, but that is something residents told Channel 11 they would like to see.
“There is nothing to be concerned about, but hey, come live with me for a couple years and we will talk then,” said Amy Laderer, who lives in Darlington Township, where Senator Bob Casey visited Monday.
As for the fire departments, all that contaminated equipment is not being used, rather backup gear is in place.
According to the governor, the funding commitment is a starting point, and he will continue pushing Norfolk Southern for further accountability and to cover additional costs that may accumulate.
Last week, the state Department of Health announced the opening of a Health Resource Center in Darlington Township, for residents of Beaver and Lawrence counties who have health concerns.
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