(Reuters) -Norfolk Southern will take responsibility for cleaning up the environmental damage from this month’s train derailment and controlled detonation of hazardous materials in East Palestine, Ohio, its finance chief said on Wednesday.
The comments by Chief Financial Officer Mark George come a day after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered the rail operator to “pay for cleaning up the mess” created by toxic chemicals spewed into the air, water and soil.
“We take responsibility … We’re fully dedicated to making things right,” George said at an investor conference hosted by Barclays. “We’re here for the long term.”
Norfolk Southern will quantify costs of the clean up no later than its first-quarter earnings, he said. Insurance will help offset those costs, including a liability policy that will cover up to $1.1 billion in certain situations.
The company said in a statement released later on Wednesday that it would excavate soil and replace tracks in the derailment area as part of a remediation plan that will also include sampling of soil and surface water.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has said it would release a preliminary report on its initial findings on Thursday into the derailment.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will travel to the site on Thursday to meet community members and attend a briefing on the investigation. He will be joined by representatives from the Federal Railroad Administration and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
Buttigieg has been criticised over his response to the derailment and subsequent environmental damage, which residents fear could pose serious health risks. He has since called on major railroads to improve safety.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump, who has announced his 2024 presidential campaign, visited East Palestine and said the town had been forgotten by the Biden administration.
(Lisa Baertlein and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles, Nathan Gomes in Bengaluru, David Shepardson in Washington, DC; Editing by David Gregorio and Himani Sarkar)