CHARLESTON --A petition filed Friday with the state Supreme Court says two state agencies failed to take action to prevent the chemical spill that affected the water supply of 300,000 residents.
The petition, filed on behalf of Covenant House and the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence and two individuals, lists the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Environmental Protection as the defendants.
The petitioners accuse the state agencies of a "collective dereliction of their duties." It says the DHHR and DEP didn't follow state laws that require them to protect drinking water.
"Respondents refused to take the actions necessary to protect the public health and the environment as required by statutes and regulations," says the petition, filed Friday by attorneys Jennifer Wagner and Bren Pomponio from Mountain State Justice and by Michael Becher and Joe Lovett from Appalachian Mountain Advocates.
Covenant House and the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence are groups that serve the needy. The two individuals listed as petitioners are Monique Watkins and Virginia Gardner. Individuals named as respondents are DEP Secretary Randy Huffman, DHHR Secretary Karen Bowling and Dr. Letitia Tierney, the commissioner for DHHR's Bureau for Public Health.
On Jan. 9, 10,000 gallons of crude MCHM leaked from a Freedom Industries storage facility about a mile upstream from West Virginia American Water Company's intake facility along the Elk River. More than 300,000 residents in parts of nine counties were without tap water for days, and many still are wary of using the water.
Now, more than 50 complaints have been filed in various state and federal courts related to the chemical spill. Freedom Industries filed for bankruptcy Jan. 17.
The petition filed Friday asks the Supreme Court to order the DHHR and the DEP to show why the agencies should not be required to use an accident prevention program, require protection plans from public that monit water systems, monitor the effects of the spill and report that information to the public.
"Even weeks after the spill, the public has not received any information about the safety of their water except unsupported and general statements about a one part-per-million safe threshold," the petition states. "Many affected residents still feel unsafe drinking or cooking or bathing with their water and a survey of legislators revealed that none of the legislators who responded were drinking tap water in the affected area."