CHEMICAL LEAK SUIT Judge tentatively approves $151M settlement
A federal judge Monday tentatively approved a $151 million settlement involving two companies sued over a 2014 chemical spill that contaminated drinking water in southern West Virginia.
U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver approved the proposed deal after more than two hours of closed-door negotiations on the wording of the class-action agreement.
Stuart Calwell, an attorney representing residents and businesses, said that under the settlement, West Virginia American Water Co. will pay $126 million and chemical maker Eastman Chemical will pay $25 million. The money will be distributed to any resident or business in the affected area through an application process to be determined later.
Calwell said he was very pleased by the settlement and that the money involved “is a recognition of what folks had to endure.”
He said Judge Copenhaver indicated that “I want that money to go to those who were deprived of water.”
The water company also agreed not to seek a rate increase from state regulators to recoup the costs of settling the lawsuit. Judge Copenhaver was adamant earlier Monday that those costs must be paid by the company’s investors and stockholders, not customers who were spill victims.
“If so, this becomes a fool’s errand,” Judge Copenhaver had said.
The companies said in separate statements Monday evening that the settlement isn’t an admission of liability.