News Story

Train company in line for $15M subsidy sent contaminated soil to Wayne County

Norfolk Southern made the choice to send the toxic soil to Michigan, says Wayne County Executive Warren Evans

Norfolk Southern, the train company whose derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, caused international news headlines, sent contaminated soil from the Ohio site to Wayne County, Michigan, by truck without as much as a heads-up, officials said Friday.

The toxic soil was sent to U.S. Ecology Disposal in Belleville, said Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Ann Arbor, in a statement. The deliveries are believed to have taken place this week, officials said.

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Dearborn and Dingell held a 7 p.m. press conference Friday to share their concerns. Evans described himself as learning of the soil shipments “through the grapevine.”

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine had announced the shipment “on his side,” Evans said. But no heads-up was given to anyone in Michigan.

Evans said it was Norfolk Southern’s decision to send the soil to Wayne County. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy says it has no authority to regulate such a thing.

It was not immediately known how many trucks of soil crossed the state line. Nor is it known the long-term impacts of the materials, said Abdul El-Sayed, a health consultant to Wayne County. El-Sayed is expected to take over as Wayne County health director in March.

El-Sayed noted that due to Wayne County’s density and industrial base, the populace would have a higher “baseline sensitivity” to a toxin. But the long-term effects of exposure to vinyl chloride, one of the top contaminants from the Ohio site, are not known.

By the time the press conference ended, less than a half-hour later, Dingell said she had word from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that no further shipments of toxic soil would be sent to Wayne County.

Norfolk Southern is in line for a $15 million subsidy from the state of Michigan if the Ford Motor Co.’s plan for a battery plant in Marshall comes through. Roughly half of its $3.5 billion price tag, or $1.7 billion, will be footed by Michigan taxpayers, including $750 million just for the site itself.

Last week, a train derailed in Wayne County, one of 1,000 that will go off the rails this year, according to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. It was mostly empty and carried no hazardous materials.

Earlier Friday, hours before the news of the toxic soil arriving in Michigan broke, Attorney General Dana Nessel tweeted: “Shipping liquefied natural gas by rail has not been proven safe for communities along the train’s routes.”

In the absence of Line 5, trains would be the primary method of transporting 540,000 barrels of fuel across Michigan. Daily. 


Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.