Water lawsuit places part of blame on Yeager runway work runoff

By Chris Dickerson | Jun 26, 2014

CHARLESTON — Plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit place part of the blame for January's water crisis on on work done to extend the runway at Charleston's Yeager Airport.

The court documents claim Yeager's runway extension didn't provide safeguards for stormwater runoff. The papers were filed June 20 in a federal lawsuit already filed by residents and businesses.

The plaintiffs allege that water flowing downhill from the airport went to Freedom Industries, where they say the water eroded the foundation of a storage tank. And they claim the runoff from the runway work “significantly caused or contributed” to creating the chemical leak.

On Jan. 9, an estimated 10,000 gallons of crude MCHM leaked from Freedom Industries’ Etowah River Terminal along the Elk River. More than 300,000 residents in parts of nine counties who use West Virginia-American Water Company were without tap water for days, and many still are wary of using the water. WVAWC’s intake facility along the Elk River is just more than a mile downstream from the leak site.

The week after the leak, Freedom Industries filed for bankruptcy, effectively halting lawsuits filed against the company. As a result, many plaintiffs have since removed Freedom as a defendant in the lawsuits.

Court documents show there have been at least 65 lawsuits filed over the leak. Of those, about 40 seek class-action status. And all of the complaints have claims similar claims such as bodily injury, emotional distress, annoyance, loss of enjoyment, nuisance, inconvenience, requests for medical monitoring, lost income and loss of business revenue.

Of the complaints filed in various state and federal courts, some list Freedom and WVAWC as defendants and others list just Freedom or just WVAWC. Some also list Eastman Chemical, which produces the crude MCHM. Freedom Industries filed for bankruptcy Jan. 17.

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