Norfolk Southern has announced on Tuesday that it will be ending temporary relocation services for residents of East Palestine and its surrounding communities affected by the February 3 train derailment in February of 2024.

In October, Norfolk Southern completed site remediation work resulting in the reopening of Taggart Street. With major excavation and soil removal activities completed, the rail company is ceasing its temporary relocation assistance on February 9, 2024.

According to a press release from Norfolk Southern, the company's Family Assistance Center will be reaching out to those who chose to relocate to make sure they know what benefits are still in place for them and their options going forward.

"We're directly helping those families with their plans to return home understanding that everyone's situation is unique, said Norfolk Southern Director of Legal Claims Will Harden.

Ashley Mccollum and her boyfriend have been living in a hotel since the derailment and Norfolk Southern has been covering the cost of their room, food and gas. Now, they’re faced with the decision on what to do once those payments stop. 

“We’re suffering mentally, physically and we will have to suffer it more severely with this being taken away,” Ashley Mccollum said. “Either we find a way to make it out of town and get rid of what we had before or we have to go back and suffer the consequences.”

Both Norfolk Southern and the U.S. EPA say it's safe for residents to return home, but temporarily relocated residents who still have doubts can access a home cleaning program similar to the concluded U.S. EPA program by calling or visiting the Family Assistance Center.

However, homes that have already been cleaned by Norfolk Southern or the EPA are not eligible for a second cleaning.

Mccollum doesn't feel the cleaning being offered will be thorough enough so, she is considering selling her home and moving to another state as a last ditch effort to try and get away from what she feels is the cause of several health issues. 

Norfolk Southern has also started a new interim home value assistance program to compensate any reduction in value of certain residential properties in East Palestine and its surrounding communities resulting from the derailment. Homes put on the market after the derailment, including those already sold, could be eligible for Norfolk Southern to cover the difference between the market and sale value. 

Mccollum doesn't think they will accept that offer if it requires her to waive her right to sue Norfolk Southern in the future. 

Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw says despite the progress made so far, there's still plenty of work to be done.

"We'll continue keeping our promises and listening to the community. Together we're focused on economic development to help the East Palestine community thrive for the long term," Shaw said

Looking ahead, community assistance will include both new and existing initiatives including:

- A $4.3 million commitment for the long term protection of East Palestine drinking water

- The interim home value assistance program

- $500,000 for an economic development agency to work with East Palestine community leaders

- A kick-off economic development roundtable in partnership with the Ohio Economic Authority, which was held November 30

- Construction of Norfolk Southern's permanent field office in East Palestine

Residents must call or visit the Norfolk Southern Family Assistance Center to start the programs that Norfolk Southern is offering. It center is located at 191 E Rebecca Street in East Palestine and can be reached Monday through Friday at (800) 230-7049