CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Although Freedom Industries has sought protection in bankruptcy court, that hasn't stopped residents and business owners from filing lawsuits over the company's Jan. 9 chemical leak into the Elk River.
None of the new lawsuits, however, names Freedom Industries as a defendant. The company's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing Jan. 18 means that all lawsuits against the company are put on hold.
About 30 lawsuits had been filed before the bankruptcy against Freedom since the company discovered "Crude MCHM" had leaked into the Elk River from one of its storage tanks and caused a water-use ban for 300,000 West Virginians. About a week later, Freedom employees disclosed that another chemical, "PPH," was also in the tank that leaked.
Eastman Chemical Company, which produces MCHM, and The Dow Chemical Company, maker of PPH, are both named as defendants in a lawsuit filed last week by more than a dozen Kanawha County residents.
That lawsuit, which asks to be granted class-action status, also names Gary Southern, Freedom's president; the company's affiliate, Etowah River Terminal; its parent company, Chemstream Holdings; and Chemstream's owner, J. Clifford Forrest.
West Virginia American Water Company and its parent company American Water Works are also named in that suit filed by attorneys Timothy Koontz and Mark Underwood.
In two other lawsuits, West Virginia American Water is named as the sole defendant. Both were filed by attorneys Marvin Masters and Robert Berthold Jr.
In documents filed in Freedom's bankruptcy case, West Virginia American Water says it has been sued more than 20 times over Freedom's chemical leak. Because of that, the water company says, it is Freedom's "largest single creditor" in the bankruptcy case.