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

(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.

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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. (Read more Freedom Industries stories.)

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