Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Two officials of chemical company plead guilty in spill that fouled drinking water in W.Va.

A pair of Freedom Industries officials pleaded guilty Monday to criminal water-pollution charges in relation to the January 2014 chemical leak that contaminated the drinking water of 300,000 residents in West Virginia, Ken Ward Jr. reports for the Charleston Gazette: "William E. Tis and Charles E. Herzing each entered a plea of guilty to a misdemeanor charge of illegally discharging the chemical Crude MCHM into the Elk River. Each faces a statutory minimum of 30 days and a maximum of one year in prison, along with fines of up to $25,000 per day of violation."

In December 2014 Freedom and six of its owners, managers and employees were charged with criminal violations of the Clean Water Act related to the spill. A report ordered by West Virginia Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said that the Mountain State has inadequate environmental regulations to prevent incidents such as the Freedom Industries spill.

"In separate deals with federal prosecutors, Tis, 60, and Herzing, 64, each pleaded guilty to one count of a three-count indictment that originally charged them with violations of the Clean Water Act and the Refuse Act," Ward writes. They had both entered not-guilty pleas in January.

"Freedom Industries and two other former Freedom officials, Michael Burdette and Robert Reynolds, have also agreed to plead guilty to charges related to the chemical leak, Ward writes. "Former Freedom officials Dennis Farrell and Gary Southern both also face three water pollution charges, and Southern faces separate bankruptcy fraud charges for allegedly trying to hide his personal wealth from Freedom’s bankruptcy proceeding and from civil lawsuits filed against the company over the leak. Farrell and Southern have both pleaded not guilty." (Read more)

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