CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A federal lawsuit against the company that makes the chemical that leaked into the Elk River and left thousands of West Virginians without water for more than a week claims the company hid evidence that the chemical causes cancer.
The lawsuit filed against Eastman Chemical Company, which makes 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, known as "Crude MCHM," claims the company ignored studies that prove the dangers of the chemical.
An Eastman spokeswoman says that's not true and studies generated by the company prove the chemical doesn't cause cancer.
The lawsuit was filed this week on behalf of businesses shut down for days with no water and by residents who claim they were exposed to the water. Plaintiffs are also suing West Virginia American Water, Freedom Industries and its director of operations, Gary Southern.
As of Thursday, more than 20 lawsuits had been filed in Kanawha Circuit Court on behalf of businesses and West Virginia American Water customers. The federal lawsuit is the only suit that names Eastman, however.
Crude MCHM, a chemical used in the coal preparation process, was spilled by Freedom Industries, a chemical distributor on Barlow Drive just upriver from the water company's intake on Jan. 9.
Material safety data sheets provided by Eastman, based in Kingsport, Tenn., ignore "extensive scientific information known showing the risks of the chemical's carcinogenic and highly toxic component parts," the lawsuit states.
"4-MCHM is a combination of two very dangerous chemicals known to cause cancer and other effects, but the MSDS sheets issued by the manufacturer, Eastman Chemical Company, ignore and hide the extensive scientific information known showing the risks of the chemical's carcinogenic and highly toxic component parts," the lawsuit states.
Exposure to "Crude MCHM" has created the need for a medical monitoring program, according to the lawsuit.