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Lawsuits Filed in Response to Elk River Chemical Spill

Jan 13, 2014

Two class action lawsuits have been filed on behalf of West Virginia residents and business impacted by the January 9, 2014 Elk River, West Virginia spill that has left thousands there unable to drink, bathe, or wash their clothes. In fact, the governor of West Virginia issued a state of emergency in response to the spill.

The class action lawsuits have been brought on behalf of a West Virginia woman and other residents, and a West Virginia business and other businesses, in the area. The lawsuits site that residents and business professionals fear the dangerous chemical 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol and their inability to use their water since January 9th. The ban spans numerous West Virginia counties.

The hazardous chemical, 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol, leaked onto thousands of residence and business premises situated along the West Virginia’s Elk River in Kanawha County. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration’ (OSHA) mandated “Material Safety Data Sheet,” which was developed by TCI America, indicates that this compound is dangerous if swallowed and can lead to irritation of the skin and eyes, according to the lawsuits. TCI America is a chemical manufacturer.

The complaint also indicates that not only has the toxic substance impacted the homes of business near the spill, but also that Freedom Industries, Inc. and West Virginia-American Water Company allegedly knew about the spill just after the accident was reported, yet postponed advising the public and closing the Elk River intake for several hours. In addition to declaring a state of emergency, the governor also advised residents of eight counties not to consume or use water distributed by the West Virginia-American Water Company.

Chemical spills are frightening and the Elk River spill is no different. The lawsuit alleges that the contamination has led to widespread fear over many counties, in part due to the known health hazards associated with 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol, but also because of what the lawsuit described as an obvious lack of preparedness on the parts of Freedom Industries, Inc. and West Virginia-American Water Company.

Based on news reports, some 100,000 residents and business—amounting to a potential, estimated 300,000 people—have been affected by the Elk River spill.

The lawsuits were filed by the law firms Parker Waichman LLP; The Bell Law Firm, PLLC; and Neblett, Beard & Arsenault on January 10, 2014 in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County, West Virginia. The class action law suit filed on behalf of the residents impacted by the chemical spill is Civil Action No. 148C53; the class action law suit filed on behalf of business is Civil Action No. 14C55. Freedom Industries, Inc. and West Virginia-American Water Company are the named defendants.

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