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Airport, Chemical Company Want Spill Lawsuit Thrown Out

Thu, 08/21/2014 - 4:48pm
JONATHAN MATTISE, Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — An airport and a chemical producer want claims dismissed in a lawsuit partly targeting them over a January chemical spill.

In U.S. District Court in Charleston, Yeager Airport filed a motion Tuesday to dismiss claims in the wide-spanning lawsuit.

Plaintiffs say the Charleston airport's now-complete runway project contributed to the spill that left 300,000 residents without clean water for days.

The lawsuit says Yeager didn't safeguard against stormwater runoff, which let water flow to Freedom Industries and erode a tank's foundation.

Yeager's motion says it generally can't be sued because it is a government agency. Airport officials have previously said the state approved project plans before construction started 10 years ago. They said Freedom never complained about water runoff.

The lawsuit says Eastman Chemical Co., producer of one of the spilled chemicals, should have known about unsafe conditions at Freedom. Eastman also didn't sufficiently warn about the chemical's hazards, the lawsuit alleges.

Eastman's motion says federal environmental officials considered the chemical non-hazardous. It says plaintiffs didn't allege life-threatening conditions from contaminated water exposure, nor did plaintiffs provide proof Eastman broke environmental laws.

Fourteen businesses and individuals are suing Yeager, Eastman, Freedom executives, the water company and its parent and runway project contractors.

Their lawsuit says the chemical producer should pay for medical monitoring in West Virginia and toxicological testing on the chemical. It also calls for West Virginia American Water, whose system was contaminated, to find a backup water supply in case of future contamination problems and conduct additional risk management planning.

Plaintiffs are also seeking damages for businesses that lost profits, people who spent extra money amid a water ban and patients who sought medical attention.

West Virginia American Water has already filed a motion asking a judge to toss out the lawsuit, as have other defendants.

Lawsuits against Freedom are being handled through a bankruptcy claims process.

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