Jan 20, 2014

Lawsuit Filed in Connection With Elk River Spill

Lawsuit filed on behalf of West Virginia individuals and businesses affected by the chemical spill

Class Action Law Suit West Virginia Elk River Chemical Spill

A class action lawsuit has been filed in the wake of the recent Elk River chemical spill. Filed together with the Morgan & Morgan Complex Litigation Group and the Law Office of Jana Eisinger PLLC, the class action suit was brought on behalf of businesses and individuals suffering the effects of one of the most wide-ranging manmade environmental disasters in recent memory, court documents say.

According to court records, the disaster stems from what officials believe was a 7,500-gal leak of the chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM), used in processing coal, from a containment tank maintained by Freedom Industries Inc. at a site along the Elk River in West Virginia. The leak site, according to court documents, was just upriver from a water treatment plant owned and operated by West Virginia American Water Co. (WVAW), one of the largest water treatment facilities in the country. Because the leak was not immediately reported to government officials, the suit alleges, MCHM made its way into the water supply of nine counties, including Kanawha, Boone, Putnam, Lincoln, Logan, Clay, Roane, Jackson and Cabell, potentially affecting 300,000 individuals and businesses.

According to court documents, inhaling or ingesting MCHM can cause potentially serious health problems, including nausea, vomiting and adverse respiratory effects. Officials did not take preventive action, court records continue, until they received widespread reports from residents of a foul, licorice-like smell emanating from the water. According to court documents, more than 700 residents have now reported illnesses related to MCHM exposure, and several individuals have been hospitalized.

Court records show that the leak and its aftermath already have proved to be financially devastating for residents affected by the spill. According to court documents, shuttered West Virginia businesses have lost “considerable profits” and residents have been unable to cook, bathe or use their water in any manner. In addition to those who have already fallen ill, the lawsuit continues, residents are forced to wonder whether this recent exposure will make them sick in the future.

Filed in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County, W.V., the class action lawsuit asserts that Freedom Industries Inc. was negligent for maintaining a dangerous chemical storage facility close to a river and just upstream from a major public water supply, failing to maintain the facility in a safe condition and failing to notify the public of the leak in a timely fashion. According to court documents, WVAW also is named as a defendant for failing to detect the leak in a timely manner and prevent MCHM from entering the public water supply where it could reach residents and businesses.