Friday, December 26, 2014

Freedom Industries and CEO Charged Over Spill

Just before Christmas, Freedom Industries and six former officials of the company were charged with federal crimes associated with the spilling coal processing chemicals into the Elk River in West Virginia. The spill, which occured on January 9th 2014 poisoned the drinking water of at least 300,000 people.

The leak emanated from a storage tank consisted of 7,500 gallons of a coal washing chemical known as 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCMH). A number of people got sick and went to hospital due to their ingestion of the chemical. In addition to contaminating drinking water and making people sick the spill reportedly cost local businesses $61 million.

The company was charged with the negligent discharge of a pollutant in violation of the Clean Water Act, negligent discharge of refuse matter in violation of the Refuse Act and violating an environmental permit.

Freedom Industries' former president Gary Southern, head of Southern Industries could be sentenced to up to 68 years in prison if convicted on all counts. In addition to the three charges noted above, Southern has also been charged with bankruptcy fraud, mail fraud and wire fraud.

One of Southern’s co-founders was Carl L. Kennedy II, a twice-convicted felon. Up until 2005, when he plead guilty to tax evasion in federal court in West Virginia, he had an executive role at Freedom Industries. Previously, in 1987, he plead guilty to selling between 10 and 12 ounces of cocaine.

On January 12, just after 3 days after the spill, Southern Industries’ public relations firm, Charles Ryan announced that they would no longer be representing the company.

The charges against Freedom Industries and Southern come amidst a public outcry and a petition demanding that Freedom Industries be held fully accountable.

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