Freedom Industries Official Sentenced for West Virginia Chemical Spill

February 3, 2016

A former environmental consultant at a chemical distributor was sentenced to three years’ probation and fined $10,000 Monday for a 2014 chemical spill that fouled the drinking water supply of 300,000 West Virginians.

Robert Reynolds was the first of six ex-Freedom Industries officials to be sentenced on pollution charges in federal court in Charleston, media outlets reported.

Reynolds was one of the people responsible for environmental compliance at Freedom. He had faced up to a year in prison.

For more than a decade, officials had been aware of critical deficiencies at the Freedom site, including a cracked containment wall that let chemicals seep through down a bank into the river, according to an FBI affidavit. But improvements to the wall weren’t made.

The spill of thousands of gallons of the coal-cleaning agent MCHM into the Elk River in January 2014 got into a water company’s intake and prompted officials to tell residents in nine counties not to use their tap water for up to 10 days.

Freedom’s former tank farm plant manager is set to be sentenced Wednesday, and a similar hearing is scheduled Thursday for the company, which filed for bankruptcy eight days after the spill.

Three former Freedom owners and the company’s former CEO who had direct oversight of the Charleston facility will be sentenced later this month.

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