Local Lawyer Releases New West Virginia Water Crisis Information - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Local Lawyer Releases New West Virginia Water Crisis Information

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UPDATE:

Adrian Wright says he'll never forget what it was like running his business after the 2014 chemical spill in the Elk River. 

"When the water crisis came in it just hit us all at once. Then we had to throw away a lot of food. I mean we had to buy bottled water even though they gave us some," said Adrian, the owner of Den 2 Brothers and a Grill in Charleston, WV.

Lawyer Kevin Thompson represents thousands of West Virginian's like Adrian in a class action lawsuit following the water crisis. 

He hired Marshall University Professor Dr. Scott Simonton to look into the federal compliance of the Eastman Chemical Company prior to the spill.

Simonton says that Eastman's safety data sheet for MCHM, which is information chemical companies must provide about their products, was inaccurate at the time of the water crisis. 

"The one that people will relate to the most was that licorice smell that everyone smelled. That was not how the odor was described in the SDS. It was described as an alcohol smell, for example," said Dr. Simonton.

According to restricted information provided to lawyers in the class action suit, Eastman Chemical knew that crude MCHM can be corrosive.

In a deposition, Dr. Andrew Whelton from Purdue University, who has no ties to the class action suit, says that the MCHM sample Eastman sent to him was clearly corrosive. 

"The crude MCHM that was sent to me by Eastman Chemical was sent in a metal container and over the course of months the inside of that container corroded," said Dr. Andrew Whelton in the deposition. 

Adrian says that his business lost more than $10,000 during the water crisis. He looks forward to seeing how this new information will impact the lawsuit.

"Here it is two and a half years later and we still ain't got none of our money back, so the thing is when are we going to get paid for what we lost," said Adrian Wright.

ORIGINAL:

A local lawyer says a Tennessee based company's negligence could be the cause behind the 2014 West Virginia Water Crisis.

Kevin Thompson represents more than 300,000 West Virginians in a class action lawsuit aimed at getting justice for those who were without safe water for weeks following the chemical spill in the Elk River. 

"I think this is a part of the story that nobody has been told until now," said Thompson.

Thompson gathered restricted information from the Eastman Chemical Company which provided Freedom Industries with crude MCHM, a chemical used in coal treatment that was spilled into the Elk River. 

The information included documentation from one Eastman's sales reps stating MCHM can be corrosive. Thompson says that information was never communicated to Freedom Industries executives like Dennis Ferrell. .

"Did you pass this on to Dennis?" said Kevin Thompson on a recorded deposition interview from January of 2015. 

"Dennis?" replied Glenda Flick, an Inside Sales Rep for the Eastman Chemical Company at the time of the water crisis.

"Ferrell." replied Thompson.

"No." - replied Flick.

"Why?" asked Thompson.

"He didn't ask me for that information," replied Flick.

Thompson has also hired scientists to test MCHM's effect on carbon steel, the material that the tanks at Freedom Industries were made of.

Their findings concluded that crude MCHM could cause a leak in a carbon steel tank in 3 to 4 years.

Thompson says that tank 396, which is where the leak originated, contained MCHM for more than 7 years.

13 News contacted the Eastman Chemical Company about the plaintiff's findings, their Corporate Communications Officer responded with the following statement:

"Eastman doesn't believe that MCHM caused the corrosion or leakage of the Freedom Tank.  The underside of the tank was severely corroded from years of direct contact with dirt and rainwater.  Freedom's own documents show that at the time of the leak, the product in the tank was actually Shurflot 944, a Freedom blend of several chemicals.".

Kevin Thompson says Eastman should have made the corrosive nature of MCHM known to both the federal government and Freedom Industries. 

Eastman's Director of Global Compliance at the time of the water crisis agreed in a deposition interview with Kevin Thompson. 

"If I knew it, I would have been obligated to communicate it," said Gary Shrum, the Director of Global Compliance for the Eastman Chemical Company at the time of the West Virginia water crisis.  

Thompson says this discovery is a huge step forward for the class action lawsuit, but he is still searching for public testimony.

You can submit your water crisis stories at www.wvwaterlitigation.com 

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