Former Head of West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Files Class Action Lawsuit in Connection with Elk River Spill

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A class action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of West Virginia individuals and businesses affected by the recent Elk River chemical spill, which dumped what is believed to be 7,500 gallons of 4-Methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM) into the water supply of nine counties, court documents allege.

According to court documents, shuttered West Virginia businesses have lost “considerable profits” and residents have been unable to cook, bathe, or use their water in any manner.

Michael Callaghan, former head of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and current partner in the prominent Charleston law firm of Neely & Callaghan, is announcing a class action lawsuit* has been filed in the wake of the recent Elk River Chemical Spill. Filed together with the Morgan & Morgan Complex Litigation Group and the Law Office of Jana Eisinger, PLLC, the class action suit was brought on behalf of businesses and individuals suffering the effects of one of the most wide-ranging man-made environmental disasters in recent memory, court documents say.

According to court records, the disaster stems from what officials believe was a 7,500-gallon leak of the chemical 4-Methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM), used in processing coal, from a containment tank maintained by Freedom Industries, Inc. at a site along the Elk River. The leak site, according to court documents, was just upriver from a water treatment plant owned and operated by West Virginia-American Water Co. (WVAW), one of the largest water treatment facilities in the country. Because the leak was not immediately reported to government officials, the suit alleges, MCHM made its way into the water supply of nine counties, including Kanawha, Boone, Putnam, Lincoln, Logan, Clay, Roane, Jackson, and Cabell, potentially affecting 300,000 individuals and businesses.

According to court documents, inhaling or ingesting MCHM can cause potentially serious health problems, including nausea, vomiting, and adverse respiratory effects. Officials did not take preventive action, court records continue, until they received widespread reports from residents of a foul, licorice-like smell emanating from the water. According to court documents, more than 700 residents have now reported illnesses related to MCHM exposure, and several individuals have been hospitalized.

As reported by NBC News online on January 10, 2014, authorities declared a state of emergency in each of the nine affected counties and issued a strict order prohibiting residents and businesses from using water for any reason other than flushing toilets. The ban on the use of water is slowly being lifted, the report continued. Residents have reported, however, that even after being cleared for use, the water is still murky and appears soiled. According to a CNN report on January 11, 2014, the West Virginia U.S. Attorney’s Office is also exploring federal criminal charges in connection with the spill.

Court records show that the leak and its aftermath have already proved to be financially devastating for residents affected by the spill. According to court documents, shuttered West Virginia businesses have lost “considerable profits” and residents have been unable to cook, bathe, or use their water in any manner. In addition to those who have already fallen ill, the lawsuit continues, residents are forced to wonder whether this recent exposure will make them sick in the future. Callaghan, a West Virginia native, veteran Charleston lawyer, and former environmental regulator, called the situation “intolerable” and vowed to fight aggressively for fair compensation for local residents and businesses.

Filed in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County, the class action lawsuit asserts that Freedom Industries, Inc. was negligent for maintaining a dangerous chemical storage facility close to a river and just upstream from a major public water supply, failing to maintain the facility in a safe condition, and failing to notify the public of the leak in a timely fashion. According to court documents, WVAW is also named as a defendant for failing to detect the leak in a timely manner and prevent MCHM from entering the public water supply where it could reach residents and businesses.

To schedule an immediate interview with Mike Callaghan, call 1-888-567-2946 or email MCallaghan(at)

Morgan & Morgan, P.A., is a premiere civil trial law firm that represents individuals and commercial clients nationwide. With more than 250 attorneys and more than 1,400 employees, Morgan & Morgan is the largest exclusively plaintiff’s law firm in Florida and one of the largest in the country, with offices in Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, and Tennessee. Morgan & Morgan’s experienced team of attorneys handles all types of consumer protection claims, and is equipped to prosecute complex, document-intensive cases. Morgan & Morgan’s dedicated Complex Litigation Group is staffed with lawyers committed to representing large numbers of individuals and business in MDL proceedings and class action cases throughout the country, including complex environmental toxic torts.

Neely & Callaghan is a prominent litigation boutique based in Charleston that focuses on providing high-quality legal representation in select state and federal matters throughout West Virginia. Partner Richard Neely, a graduate of Yale Law School, is a former Chief Justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court, a former member of the West Virginia legislature, and the author of seven books. Partner Mike Callaghan is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, a position in which he served as the chief of the office’s criminal division, and the former head of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. He began his career as a law clerk to Chief U.S. District Judge Charles H. Haden II.

The Law Office of Jana Eisinger, PLLC, with offices in New York and Colorado, is a specialty firm providing advice and representation to clients in complex litigation matters. Jana Eisinger began her legal career as a New York City prosecutor. Her subsequent private-sector legal experience, at some of the country’s largest and most celebrated New York law firms, concentrated on the defense of corporations in complex litigation of national significance. After more than a decade in New York, she moved to Denver where she worked as in-house litigation counsel for two public companies before starting her own law practice.

*Case No. 14-C-97, in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County, West Virginia

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