Four suits claim WVAWC supplying contaminated water

By Chris Dickerson | Jul 3, 2014

CHARLESTON – Four recently filed lawsuits accuse West Virginia-American Water Company of providing contaminated drinking water for years.

The complaints, all filed by Charleston attorney G. Patrick Jacobs, allege the plaintiffs have “noticed a foreign substance in their tap water” for several years and that they continue to do so.

“Defendant has been negligent in allowing foreign substances into plaintiffs’ water supply and in failing to correct the problems with plaintiffs’ water and in failing to remove the foreign substance from plaintiffs’ water,” the similar complaints state.

The plaintiffs in each of the complaints are listed with South Charleston addresses. They are Rosa B. Cole and Reba Cummings, James VanHorn, Randy Midkiff and Steven W. and Diana L. Williams.

The complaints also state that the contaminant and foreign substance stains and discolors materials and objects in their homes.

“Plaintiffs belive this foreign substance may be causing damage to their home and real property,” the complaints state. “On occasion, this substance produced a noxious odor.”

The plaintiffs say they are concerned about the safety of drinking the tap water. Some say they will flush the lines before using this water for cooking and drinking, and others avoid the water for cooking and drinking and, instead, buy bottled water.

Thus, they allege the water creates a nuisance and inconvenience for the plaintiffs.

They seek compensatory damages as well as court costs, pre- and post-judgment interest, attorney fees and other costs.

WVAWC, of course, has been the subject of lawsuits recently related to the January chemical leak that affected the water supply of more than 300,000 residents.

On Jan. 9, an estimated 10,000 gallons of crude MCHM leaked from Freedom Industries’ Etowah River Terminal along the Elk River. Customers 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 nearly 70 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.

Kanawha Circuit Court case numbers: 14-C-853 (Cole, Cummings), 14-C-854 (VanHorn), 14-C-855 (Midkiff), 14-C-856 (Williams)

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