CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A judge granted a temporary restraining order Monday to preserve evidence at Freedom Industries, where a chemical leaked into the Elk River.
On Monday, at least 18 lawsuits had been filed against Freedom Industries and West Virginia American Water after a leak Thursday caused the loss of water service to thousands of West Virginians.
The lawsuits, many of which ask to be granted class-action status, have been filed on behalf of businesses forced to shut down during the state of emergency and all West Virginia American Water customers.
The order, signed by Kanawha Circuit Judge James Stucky, will prevent Freedom Industries from further removing possible evidence from its facility.
"Plaintiff will need to inspect defendants' facilities and premises with the aid and advice of appropriate experts. It is appropriate that the subject facilities and premises be in as close a condition as possible to their condition at the time of the chemical spill," the order states.
A hearing will take place at 3 p.m. Jan. 23 to discuss whether the restraining order should continue.
Until then, Freedom Industries must not alter or modify in any manner "any structure, tank, equipment, material or condition of" its facility with the exception of changes necessary for stopping and cleaning up the chemical spill, according to the order.
The company must also keep, among other things, documents relating to any other chemical spill or leak from each of its facilities; documents related to chemical storage policies; warnings and instructions for all chemicals kept in storage tanks at its facilities; policies and procedures for each of its facilities, and any documents generated starting Jan. 8.
The company must also keep any documents and communications between it and West Virginia American Water starting Jan 8.