2 Sentenced in WV Chem Spill

Wednesday, February 3, 2016 @ 10:02 AM gHale

The former owner of Freedom Industries got three years of probation and a $20,000 fine Tuesday for his role in the January 2014 chemical spill that contaminated the water supply in the Charleston, WV, area.

Charles Herzing is the second of six former Freedom Industries officials to receive a sentence on pollution charges, after the spill contaminated the drinking water for more than 300,000 West Virginians.

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The company’s former environmental consultant, Robert Reynolds, received his sentence Monday. He got three years of probation and a $10,000 fine.

On Thursday, the former Freedom plant manager and the company itself will have separate sentencings.

Other company officials will learn their fate later this month.

In January 2014, there was a spill of thousands of gallons of the coal-cleaning agent MCHM into the Elk River, which contaminated the drinking water of residents in nine counties for up to 10 days.

It all began when residents noticed a licorice odor along the Elk River in Charleston the morning of Jan. 9, 2014. The smell ended up pinpointed to a leak of the coal-cleaning agent MCHM at a series of Freedom Industries tanks less than 2 miles upstream from West Virginia American Water’s intake.

By nightfall, state officials declared a state of emergency, telling residents in a nine-county area to avoid using their tap water except for flushing toilets and putting out fires.

Residents immediately cleared store shelves of bottled water, and suppliers sent in truckloads of water.

The tap water advisory remained in place for up to 10 days while homes and businesses systematically flushed the chemical from their lines.

Before the advisory lifted, Freedom filed for bankruptcy.