$151M West Virginia Chemical Spill Settlement Approved

June 11, 2018

A federal judge has given final approval of a $151 million settlement of a lawsuit stemming from a chemical spill into a West Virginia river.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver granted approval Friday of a 2014 settlement between plaintiffs and West Virginia American Water and Eastman Chemical Co.

Businesses and residents sued after a chemical known as Crude MCHM spilled from a storage tank at Freedom Industries into the Elk River, upriver from West Virginia American Water’s plant in Charleston.

The class-action lawsuit claimed West Virginia American Water didn’t react to or prepare for the spill, and that Eastman Chemical, which made MCHM, didn’t do enough to warn Freedom Industries of the chemical’s danger. The settlement is supposed to cover 300,000 people who were told not to drink, clean with or bathe in the water for days after the spill.

There is a 30-day appeal window, and those who filed claims in the lawsuit will start getting checks sometime after that, lawyers said.

However, it’s still not clear exactly when claimants will start getting their checks, said Anthony Majestro, a lawyer for the residents.

The settlement administrator is “engaged in the tedious process” of looking at the claims to make sure they’re correct, the judge’s order reads. Those who need to fix their claims will have 30 days to do so.

Initial estimates indicated residential households would receive $550 for the house, plus $180 for each additional member. But payments might ultimately be 20 percent lower than originally predicted, the order states.

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