Federal lawsuit filed over WV chemical leak - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Federal lawsuit filed over leaked chemical's manufacturer

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A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Charleston seeks damages from the leak of chemicals into the region's water system, a risk assessment of pollution upstream of the water intake as well as medical monitoring for people affected by the spill.

The suit was filed Jan. 13  by several West Virginia residents and businesses against Freedom Industries, which operated the chemical storage site, Eastman Chemical Co., which sold the chemical to Freedom, West Virginia American Water Co. and Gary Southern, Freedom's president.

Click here to read the suit.

Among the plaintiffs is Delegate Mike Manypenny, D-Taylor and other individual plaintiffs are local business owners: Georgia Hamra, Carolyn Burdette, Crystal Goode and John Sarver doing business as Mouse's Car Wash. Business plaintiffs are Vantap, doing business as Vandalia Grill, Nitro Car Care Center and Colors Salon and Boutique.

The suit seeks the following relief:

  • An injunction ordering defendants to remove all sources of contamination from Freedom's storage business on the Elk River, including contaminated soil.
  • An injunction ordering West Virginia American Wager to complete a risk assessment of the pollution risks upstream of its water intake and to take appropriate steps to reduce those risks.
  • An injunction ordering Eastman, which manufactures the chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, also known as crude HCHM, to complete a competent and thorough toxicological analysis of the risks to human health and to make changes to its published Material Data Safety Sheet accordingly.
  • Class action status.
  • Damages for class members who suffered business or economic losses as a result of the defendants' conduct, acts or omissions.
  • Punitive damages.
  • Medical monitoring funded by the defendants.

According to the suit, MCHM, or 4-MCHM, gives off a licorice smell at concentrations exceeding the chemical's odor threshold. The smell had been detected in the Charleston area for more than a week before the Jan. 9 release.

The suit says Freedom failed to comply with standards and requirements for the control, distribution, transport and disposal of 4-HCHM.

It also says Southern recently sold his interest in the facility operated by Freedom Industries, but he still works as a consultant to the company. The suit says Southern knew or should have known about the conditions at the facility.