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Tuesday, April 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

West Virginia Chem-Spill Case Settled for $151M

(CN) - Two companies named as the defendants in a class action stemming from a 2014 chemical spill and water emergency have agreed to settle with the plaintiffs for $151 million.

Under the terms of the settlement, West Virginia American Waters will pay $126 million in damages related to the spill of the chemical methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM0; Eastman Chemical, the maker of chemical, will pay $25 million.

The Elk River chemical spill occurred on Jan. 9, 2014 spilled from a tank farm operated by Freedom Industries. The spill occurred upstream from the principal West Virginia American Water intake and treatment and distribution center and the incident left as many as 300,000 residents in nine counties without potable water for several days.

The chemical, a by-product of coal mining activities, is not known to cause fatalities, but it does cause itching or burning of the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract and is deemed "hazardous" by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

In their lawsuit the plaintiffs said the water company simply never prepared for such an emergency and that as a result, it was unable to respond and minimize its impact.

U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver initially rejected the proposed settlement, saying that its original language would have allowed the water company to recover the cost of the settlement from its customers through a rate case fled with the state Public Service Commission.

The parties revised the settlement language to remove that loophole.

The term sheet for the settlement says West Virginia American Waters will set aside $76 million of the settlement amount for direct payments to residents and business owners.

Fifty million will be set aside for additional claims such as those filed by individuals who missed work because of the spill or were forced to replace hot water tanks and other plumbing elements.

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