Company That Ruined Water for 300K People Fined $11K

Judge surprised few claims filed against W. Va. firm

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 9, 2014 2:26 AM CDT

(Newser) – A West Virginia company that leaked a chemical into the Elk River at the start of this year has been punished with an $11,000 fine—which amounts to about 27 cents for each of the 300,000 people left without water for days. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Freedom Industries $7,000 for not having a liquid tight wall around tanks containing the coal-cleaning chemical Crude MCHM, and another $4,000 for failing to have the proper railings on an elevated platform at the site, reports the Charleston Gazette.

Despite the large number of people affected when 10,000 gallons of the chemical seeped through the containment wall, only 78 claims have been filed against the company, a number that surprised a federal bankruptcy judge, the Charleston Daily Mail reports.
“It’s amazing that there have not been an overwhelming number of spill claims," he said at a hearing yesterday. "I don’t know whether that’s because they don’t think there’s enough money to pay claims or there’s not significant damage." The company listed around $10 million in assets and $10 million in liabilities when it filed for bankruptcy soon after the spill.

People wait in a line to stock up on bottled water at a supermarket in Charleston, W.Va. on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 in the wake of Freedom Industries' chemical spill into the Elk River.
People wait in a line to stock up on bottled water at a supermarket in Charleston, W.Va. on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 in the wake of Freedom Industries' chemical spill into the Elk River.   (AP Photo/Michael Switzer)
Workers inspect an area outside a retaining wall around storage tanks where a chemical leaked into the Elk River at a Freedom Industries storage facility in Charleston, W.Va.
Workers inspect an area outside a retaining wall around storage tanks where a chemical leaked into the Elk River at a Freedom Industries storage facility in Charleston, W.Va.   (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
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