Categorized | Legal News

The FBI Begins its Investigation into the Elk River Chemical Spill

Nearly 300,000 people in nine counties throughout West Virginia were affected by the chemical leak into the Elk River on January 9th, 2014. For almost 10 days, residents were unable to drink from their taps or shower in their homes. Now, the FBI has thrown its hat in the ring as it takes a long, hard look at the 60 years old tanks in question.

While no one can argue that the Elk River spill is a travesty, the presence of the Feds has caused some controversy over the role of government in disaster areas. On the one hand, you have people clamoring for help from FEMA; on the other, you have an equal amount of voices crying out to let the states handle their own. Both sides make compelling arguments.

What’s fascinating from a legal perspective, however, is not necessarily the cries for stricter – or looser – regulations, but the debate over how accountable Freedom Industries should be held. The company admits that it had no spill prevention plan in place, and that it was reluctant to admit there had been a spill even after there were inspectors on the property. In fact, the only containment plan the company had – and we promise we are not making this up – involved a bag of liquid-absorbing powder and a cinder block.

The gross negligence on behalf of Freedom Industries has spawned at least 20 lawsuits and an FBI investigation, yes, but it has also led the company to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. So in the end, all the proof in the world might not matter, if the company has no money to pay.

Unless it reincarnates later, of course, under a different name with different leaders. It wouldn’t be the first time a private sector company got away with defrauding the public; sadly, it surely won’t be the last.

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