CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia regulators on Monday harshly criticized a new liquidation plan submitted by Freedom Industries, saying the proposal wrongly seeks to funnel more than $2.5 million to bankruptcy lawyers and other professionals instead of spending it to adequately clean up the site of the January 2014 chemical leak.
In filing a formal objection to the plan, lawyers for the state Department of Environmental Protection asked U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Ronald Pearson to order $1 million to be spent to “immediately remediate” the Freedom Etowah Terminal along the Elk River, just upstream from a West Virginia American Water drinking water intake that serves 300,000 people in Charleston and the surrounding region.
“As the sun sets on Freedom and its disastrous chemical spill, Freedom’s resulting bankruptcy case now boils down to this: Freedom’s retained professionals seek to abuse their position as the representatives of [the company] to extract eleventh-hour, wholly irresponsible and unwarranted concessions from DEP concerning the extent of Freedom’s remediation obligations solely to further their own economic self-interest by enhancing the recovery on account of their outlandish fees,” wrote Kevin Barrett, a lawyer from the Bailey & Glasser firm, which represents the DEP in the Freedom bankruptcy.
The DEP also revealed in its court filing that agency officials, during a visit to the Freedom site last week, found “that MCHM-contaminated water remains on the premises and that the soil and fill material in the area around the former leaking tank still contain unacceptable levels of MCHM contaminants.”
DEP communications director Kelley Gillenwater said that while no samples were taken during the agency’s inspection, “the presence of MCHM was obvious due to the smell.” Gillenwater said that there was “also a visible sheen” in some water puddles…