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Firm blamed in W.Va. spill seeks bankruptcy help

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The company blamed for a chemical spill that left 300,000 West Virginians without safe drinking water filed for bankruptcy protection Friday.

Freedom Industries Inc., facing at least 31 lawsuits and government investigations after the Jan. 9 spill, filed a Chapter 11 petition with the US Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of West Virginia.

The company’s filing lists its assets and liabilities as a range — both between $1 million and $10 million. It says the company has at least 200 creditors and owes its top 20 creditors $3.66 million.

The bankruptcy proceedings freeze the lawsuits against Freedom Industries, said Anthony Majestro, a Charleston attorney who is representing several small businesses that sued the company. Some of the 31 lawsuits in Kanawha County Circuit Court also name West Virginia American Water Co. and Eastman Chemical, which makes the coal-cleaning chemical that spilled.


Mark E. Freedlander, an attorney with the law firm representing Freedom Industries, said in a statement Friday that ‘‘the petition and related pleadings speak for themselves.’’

The water was tainted after a chemical used to clean coal leaked from a storage tank and then a containment area at a facility owned by Freedom Industries. The water ran into the Elk River, contaminating the state’s largest water system.

After the spill, residents in a nine-county area around the state capital of Charleston were told not to use the water for anything other than flushing toilets. Restrictions have since been lifted for most residents.

Associated Press