Freedom Industries is about to begin officially demolishing its chemical storage tanks, which will hopefully prevent another disaster like the Elk River spill from occurring.
Demolition crews hope to begin early next week, and those overseeing the process believe that it will take no longer than a month, assuming the good weather holds up. The heavy demolition equipment will move into place this coming Friday and will be prepared for disassembling 10 of the site’s storage tanks. The remaining three tanks will stay on the site temporarily in order for storm water runoff to be stored, but those, too, will eventually be removed.
The removal of the storage tanks is the latest step in the attempt to clean up the January Elk River spill, which tainted the drinking water of 300,000 West Virginians living in the Charleston area. Residents have since filed more than 60 personal injury lawsuits, including dozens of class action suits, prompting Freedom Industries to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The effects of the spill on residents’ health is still becoming known. A recent 66-page report from the United States Centers for Disease Control found that 20 percent of households surveyed in Kanawha Valley suffered from health problems believed to be caused by the toxic chemical spill. Most of the health problems consisted of rashes and other skin irritation, although some reported diarrhea, nausea, and respiratory illness. Of those who suffered these symptoms, more than half did not seek medical attention.
As late as April, only a third of residents had gone back to drinking the local water. That said, it was unclear what the normal baseline was for drinking water before the accident. The Centers for Disease Control officials believe that it could have ranged between 26.6 percent and 40.4 percent. However, prior to the Elk River accident, at least most of those surveyed thought that the local drinking water was safe. Currently, only about a third of residents hold that opinion, and it will probably be a long time before the number rises above 50 percent, if ever.
The Freedom Industry dismantling of storage tanks is one step toward restoring public trust in their water supply, but it will only be sustained if officials take sustained action to ensure that the water supply is protected. It is not clear that will be the case. Governor Tomblin recently stated that he has no immediate plans to follow the recommendations of his team of experts and conduct a large project to test home water supplies to see whether the chemical from the spill, MCHM, still lurks inside the plumbing systems. He claims that it is too expensive and that the federal government would need to help fund the project. There is no indication whether that will happen.
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.