Across Appalachia

W.V. Chemical Spill Settlement Reached

Date: December 14, 2016

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By Elizabeth E. Payne

On Oct. 31, a settlement in a class-action lawsuit was released that compensates residents affected by the Jan. 9, 2014, chemical spill at Freedom Industries in Charleston, W.Va. At that time, the drinking water of 300,000 people was poisoned by a spill of 7,500 gallons of the coal-washing chemical MCHM into the Elk River.

Both Eastman Chemical Co., who produced the chemical, and West Virginia American Water Co., the private water utility, were named in the suit. Freedom Industries was not included because the company has filed for bankruptcy and its involvement would have delayed action on the case.

The settlement reached will divide at least $151 million between those directly impacted by the spill, which includes more than 224,000 residents, more than 7,300 business owners and an unnamed number of individuals who work in affected areas but live elsewhere. The settlement also stipulates that the settlement’s cost to the water utility must be paid by the company’s stockholders and not passed on to their ratepayers.

“I am pleased with the settlement and hope it will encourage our community and other communities to keep asking question and taking measures to protect water sources,” says Crystal Good, the lead plaintiff in the case.

According to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, neither Eastman nor West Virginia American admitted any fault for the spill by accepting the settlement.

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