Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

2014 WATER CRISIS ; Judge Keeps Eastman in Play; Ruling Allows for Allegations That Eastman Chemical Partly to Blame for Elk River MCHM Spill

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

2014 WATER CRISIS ; Judge Keeps Eastman in Play; Ruling Allows for Allegations That Eastman Chemical Partly to Blame for Elk River MCHM Spill

Article excerpt

In one of a series of rulings expected to define the scope of a class-action trial scheduled to start in late October, a federal judge on Monday declined to throw out allegations that partly blame the January 2014 Elk River chemical spill on Eastman Chemical, the maker of Crude MCHM that spilled from the Freedom Industries facility just upstream from the region's drinking water intake. U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver Jr. issued another ruling, though, that residents, businesses and workers suing over the spill and the water crisis that followed cannot pursue claims against American Water Workers Company Inc., the parent of West Virginia American Water Co., whose customers' drinking water supply was contaminated in the incident.

The rulings were among the first in a long list of decisions expected from Copenhaver this week in response to dozens of pre- trial motions filed in the case. Jury selection for the trial is scheduled to start on Oct. 25.

In the case, lawyers for hundreds of thousands of residents, businesses and wage earners in the Kanawha Valley allege that West Virginia American did not adequately respond to the Jan. 9, 2014, spill of Crude MCHM and other chemicals from the Freedom Industries facility along the Elk River, just 1.5 miles upstream from West Virginia American's regional drinking water intake. The suit also alleges that Eastman, which manufactured the chemical MCHM and sold it to Freedom, did not properly test the chemical or warn buyers or the public about any potential health impacts or possible safety concerns related to the type of storage tanks Freedom used.

Last year, Copenhaver approved the case being pursued as a class- action over the liability, or fault, of the water company and Eastman. The judge did not certify a damages class, meaning damages would have to be determined later, on some case-by-case basis. …

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