Just when it seemed as though the major Elk River spill was finally under control, another spill recently occurred. So far, tests do not show any signs of MCHM in the newly spilled water.
The latest spill occurred when a Freedom Industries storm water collection trench overflowed and leaked chemicals into the state’s largest water supply, causing water from the site to enter the Elk River. The trench had been put in place solely to prevent another Elk River disaster from occurring. Fortunately, thus far, four samples taken from the water have shown no trace of the MCHM and its familiar black licorice odor. MCHM seeped into the Elk River in January after 10,000 gallons leaked from a storage vat, contaminating the drinking water for 300,000 West Virginia residents. As a result, over 60 lawsuits have been filed.
The state Department of Environmental Protection was the first to notice the trench overflow. An inspector saw that a sump pump set up to pump overflow had stopped working and hastened to restart it. The inspector was there on one of several state and federal investigations of the site currently underway. The Department of Environmental Protection has since issued two notices of violation: one for allowing a discharge from a non-permitted outlet and the other for failing to comply with the terms and conditions of a prior order to implement an approved sump management plan.
Freedom Industries is expected to demolish the various chemical storage tanks, but it is waiting to receive the necessary permits first. When the tank demolition occurs, the black licorice odor might fill the air again, at least temporarily. The company has already torn down six fiberglass tanks.
Meanwhile, residents of the area are angry that an accident could happen again so soon after the last chemical spill. One resident expressed fear that even after Freedom Industries left, a similarly negligent company could cause another disaster to occur. Thousands of residents have complained of ill effects from the local drinking water, even after restrictions were lifted and the water declared fit to use once more.
It was because of ill effects from the last spill that roughly 62 lawsuits were filed, half of them class-action lawsuits. They were recently transferred from bankruptcy court to federal district court on the basis that bankruptcy courts do not typically have jury trials like regular trial courts, and the injured parties were entitled to a jury trial. While there may not be chemical problems with the runoff water like last time, it is highly possible that at least one person will be adversely affected. If that is the case, he or she might consider filing a lawsuit. Since Freedom Industry filed for bankruptcy, it received an injunction that bars any new lawsuits against it, but if other companies are involved, injured parties might consider suing those.
The Wolfe Law Firm has been providing legal services for nearly 25 years. Located in Elkins, West Virginia, the firm provides services in the areas of personal injury, criminal defense, bankruptcy, and mediation. If you are looking for an experienced West Virginia personal injury attorney, contact us today.