Last Thursday, a chemical spill in West Virginia contaminated the drinking
water of about 300,000 people in nine counties. About 7,500 gallons of
4-methylcyclohexane methanol, or Crude MCHM, leaked into the soil on the
bank of West Virginia’s Elk River, and eventually made its way into
the river itself. Crude MCHM is a frothing agent used to clean coal. According
to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, the chemical can
be harmful if swallowed or inhaled and can cause eye and skin irritation,
nausea, and vomiting.
At least five people have been admitted to local hospitals with symptoms
that appear to be associated with the chemical leak. Residents in the
affected areas have been ordered not to drink or shower with the tap water
until the river can be cleaned up. According to a
story in The Register-Herald, at least three class action lawsuits have already
been filed against Freedom Industries, the company that owns the storage
facilities where a 40,000 gallon tank of Crude MCHM ruptured and leaked
into the river.
Spill Disrupts Life for Many Homes and Businesses
West Virginia American Water is the utility that controls and distributes
the water supply in that part of the state. The utility first detected
the chemical in the water on Thursday afternoon, and its water filtration
system quickly became ineffective against such a large quantity of contamination.
The level of Crude MCHM in the river has been gradually decreasing since
the spill was discovered, and the state has
tested the water hourly to check whether it is safe to lift the drinking and showering
ban. The Crude MCHM level needs to fall below one part per million before
the water is safe to drink.
Lawsuits May Be Consolidated
Multiple lawsuits have been filed against Freedom Industries on behalf
of businesses that were forced to shut down because of the spill. These
suits ask for the recovery of lost profits and other damages caused by
the spill and the government-mandated closure of businesses during the
state of emergency. The lawsuits may ultimately be consolidated in order
to simplify what is sure to be a long and complex litigation process.
A class-action suit has also been filed by West Virginia residents against
both Freedom Industries and West Virginia American Water. That suit seeks
recovery for personal injury, damage to property, loss of income, and
the nuisance of the water contamination. As more information about Freedom
Industries, the nature of the spill, the government’s response,
and the health consequences of exposure to Crude MCHM continues to surface,
more litigation is likely to follow.
What to do if you are the Victim of Environmental Contamination
If tainted drinking water or other environmental contamination has caused
damage to the health or property of you or a loved one, you should contact
a personal injury attorney immediately. An attorney can review the facts
of your case and determine whether you have a viable claim. If so, they
can help you seek the compensation you deserve.