Six people charged in relation to West Virginia chemical spill
Prosecutors say owners and employees were negligent prior to spill
Federal prosecutors have charged six people associated with Freedom Industries in connection with the massive Elk River chemical spill last year, according to the Charleston Gazette. The accused allegedly violated federal environmental laws by failing to take due care to prevent the spill. One of the former executives is also charged with fraud in connection to the spill’s aftermath. The January 2014 accident cut off water to hundreds of thousands of people in the Charleston area and shut down countless businesses.
Thousands without water
According to Bloomberg, the spill from Freedom Industries’ tank released 7,500 gallons of MCHM, a cleaning agent, into the Elk River. The spill resulted in 300,000 people losing access to potable water and over 100 residents being sent to hospital due to nausea and other symptoms associated with the contamination.
Some residents were without potable water for a month and thousands of businesses suffered economic losses because of the industrial accident. It was just the latest in a string of industrial accidents that have hit the Kanawha Valley in recent years. Soon after the incident, Freedom Industries filed for bankruptcy.
Six face charges
Six people associated with Freedom Industries, most of them former executives, are now facing charges by federal prosecutors. A recent indictment says that the former executives failed to inspect or repair the tank that eventually leaked into the Elk River. The company also allegedly failed to have a spill prevention plan in place and failed to train its employees in how to handle a spill, along with a number of other charges.
As U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin noted, “Metal tanks don’t simply corrode overnight.” Three of the executives are facing three years in prison, while two employees, who cooperated with the investigation, have yet to hear the details of the charges against them. The final man charged faces up to 68 years in prison because of alleged fraud following the spill. Prosecutors say he made misleading statements about his role in the company as a way of protecting himself from the financial fallout caused by the accident.
The Elk River chemical spill is just one example of the injuries, both physical and economic, that can happen when an industrial accident occurs. Such accidents can cause massive damage and may lead to injury or even death, especially for workers. Companies that fail to comply with health and safety regulations should be held accountable for their negligence.
Anybody who has been the victim of an industrial or other type of accident should contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Because of the complex nature of these cases, victims should reach out to an attorney who has the right experience to help vigorously fight for his clients’ rights and interests.