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.