US District Court Judge John Copenhaver approved a $151 million settlement on Monday, October 31st.
On January 9, 2014, a container at Freedom Industries in Charleston, West Virginia, leaked nearly 10,000 gallons of chemicals into the Elk River, causing a tap-water ban for a population of 300,000 people.
Attorneys for the residents and businesses affected by the chemical leak argued in the case that West Virginia American Water Co. failed to properly prepare and respond to the spill.
Damages inflicted upon residents involved both financial and physical injuries. The chemical that was released into the water system is called methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM) and is known to cause nausea, vomiting and eye irritation. During the pretrial court hearing, plaintiffs argued that the company which sold MCHM to Freedom Industries “failed to warn Freedom Industries of the corrosive nature of the chemical.”
After two hours of deliberation regarding the language of the settlement, Copenhaver approved an agreement that would require two companies to compensate affected businesses and residents. Specifically, West Virginia American Water Co. will be required to pay $126 million, while Eastman Chemical will be required to pay $25 million. Compensation is planned to be distributed through an application process that will be determined in the near future.
Plaintiff attorney, Kevin Thompson, stated “It could have taken years to determine how much people would have gotten in compensation, so this settlement achieved the ends of justice.”