Freedom Industries, the company whose chemical leak contaminated the tap water of 300,000 West Virginians, will cease to exist once it goes through bankruptcy, but that doesn’t mean its executives are out of the chemical business.
The companies share addresses and phone numbers, Lexycon was founded by a former Freedom executive and it has ties to at least two other current or former Freedom executives.
Lexycon was founded in Florida, on March 24. Its mailing address is a building on North Collier Boulevard on Marco Island, Florida. Gary Southern, the president of Freedom Industries, owns a house on Marco Island about two miles away. On April 3, about a week after Lexycon registered in Florida, it did the same in West Virginia.
This time, its mailing address was different. The mailing address on file with the West Virginia secretary of state is a building on Cascada Way, in Naples, Florida.
Lexycon’s office address is listed as Par Industrial Park, in Nitro. That address is shared by Poca Blending, a longtime affiliate of Freedom Industries that merged with Freedom in December, about a week before the chemical leak.
Lexycon’s phone number, on file with the West Virginia secretary of state, is the same as Poca Blending’s.
When asked why the companies shared a phone number, Bob Reynolds, an employee who answered the phone, said, “I have no idea what’s going on there.”
Reynolds was the Freedom employee who called the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to report the chemical leak on Jan. 9.
Reynolds said Thursday that Southern doesn’t work at the Nitro facility and that he hasn’t seen Dennis Farrell, Freedom’s former president, in months.
Lexycon’s technical contact was listed as Kevin Skiles, who also is listed as the research and development contact for Freedom.
After the Gazette emailed Farrell and Skiles to ask if the new company was affiliated with Freedom, the two men’s names disappeared from the Lexycon website and a new phone number was listed in their place.
A woman who answered the phone at that number said Farrell was unavailable, refused to identify herself and hung up. Subsequent calls to Lexycon went unanswered.
Wednesday evening, Skiles sent an email statement about Lexycon.
“The company president, Kevin Skiles, along with a group of former sales associates of Freedom Industries that have extensive experience in the chemical industry are the only employees of the company,” the statement reads. “As part of Lexycon’s plan, only the Poca Blending site assets located in Nitro, West Virginia, are being considered for purchase ... . Those assets are still part of the bankruptcy court preceding’s [sic] and approval has not been obtained. However, to be able to react immediately upon the sale, Lexycon chose to register with the West Virginia secretary of state’s office using the Par Industrial Park address”
“Lexycon, LLC was formed in Florida and is privately held that has no ties in any way with Gary Southern, the former president of Freedom Industries,” the statement continues. “Nor is Denny Farrell an owner or employee of Lexycon, LLC. He is an independent consultant who has been engaged by the company to help with the transition of the companies business as it relates to the coal industry.”
As Freedom winds its way through bankruptcy court, it has been named in more than 60 lawsuits stemming from the chemical leak. Those lawsuits likely will not proceed to their conclusion — which could exhaust Freedom’s limited assets on legal fees — and any potential payouts likely would come through administrative claims.
The companies’ descriptions of their businesses match, almost verbatim.
This is how Freedom Industries describes itself on its website: “Freedom Industries is a full service producer of specialty chemicals for the mining, steel and cement industries. Founded in 1986 and located in Charleston, West Virginia, Freedom Industries is a leading producer of freeze conditioning agents, dust control palliatives, flotation reagents, water treatment polymers and other specialty chemicals.”
Lexycon’s website does not appear to be complete, it had at least two broken links as of Wednesday afternoon, but the company is an exhibitor at Coal Prep, an annual conference of coal processors going on this week in Lexington, Kentucky.
This is how Lexycon describes itself on the Coal Prep website: “Lexycon LLC is a full service producer of specialty chemicals for the mining, steel and cement industries. Founded in 2013 with facilities located in Charleston, West Virginia, Lexycon is a leading producer of freeze conditioning agents, dust control palliatives, flotation reagents, water treatment polymers and other specialty chemicals.”
Freedom Industries’ logo appeared on Lexycon’s exhibitor page on the Coal Prep website Wednesday afternoon.
Florence Torres, a spokeswoman for Coal Prep, could not provide any contact information for Lexycon. Mark Freedlander, Freedom’s lead bankruptcy lawyer, would not comment when asked about Lexycon.
Reach David Gutman at email@example.com or 304-348-5119.