|COMMENT Bob Weaver|
Freedom Industries, the company responsible for a chemical leak that led to a massive water crisis affecting 300,000 people, has filed for bankruptcy.
Officials said Friday the unreported leak took about 15 hours reaching the Elk River, just above the water company intake pipe. Then it was hours later the problem was reported by citizens, long before the leak was officially discovered and the water tainted.
The bankruptcy scenario has historically been used by coal companies in the Mountain State when they have faced such problems, more often than not turning around and starting new companies.
The company has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Charleston federal bankruptcy court.
Freedom's bankruptcy effort comes at a time when it faces multiple class-action lawsuits and possible criminal charges over the leak that prompted West Virginia American Water to issue a do-not-drink water order that affected nine counties.
Fascinatingly, criminal charges have rarely been mentioned, although charges against state residents for private pollution violations are frequently filed.
The bankruptcy filing says Freedom owes $3.6 million to its top 20 unsecured creditors, with the company also owing more than $2.4 million in unpaid taxes to the IRS.
The filing says IRS has placed at least three liens on Freedom's property, demanding payment.
The unpaid taxes date back to at least 2000.
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection ordered the company to cease operations at its Elk River facility where the leak occurred, while the site was to be cleaned up.
Historically, in WV when mining problems happened, they often abandoned the property.
Hundreds of mining sites are on a federal clean-up list, with the government allocating millions of taxpayer dollars a year for clean-up, some sites going back to the 1960s.
A report says it could be another 20 years before the clean-ups are completed.
The DEP just issued five citations to Freedom related to the storage of 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol (MCHM) at Poca Blending in Nitro where the Elk River chemicals were being moved.
The DEP said there was is no secondary containment at the second facility in the event of another leak.
The Freedom Works facility where the leak happened, according to officials, had decaying emergency containment "tanks" in case of a spill, and stonewalled officials collecting information regarding the spill.
A primary complaint regarding the spill was the long delay in notifying the water company, officials and the public.
Observing the outcomes of West Virginia's environmental disasters. including those in which people died, they drug-out in court for years.
After the Buffalo Creek disaster in 1972 that killed 125 and done millions of dollars damage destroying entire communities, West Virginia attempted to collect $100 million for disaster and relief damages, but Governor Arch A. Moore, Jr. settled for just $1 million, three days before leaving office in 1977.
Taxpayers anted the costs.
Years later, after long court battles, the deceased victims were awarded $12,000 each for their lost lives.
You could assume who gets the shaft in most of the disasters, taxpayers and the victims.