Residents and businesses affected by the 2014 Kanawha Valley water crisis won’t receive settlements until a federal judge issues his final approval order and administrators finish processing the claims.
Administrators are still processing the 95,155 claim forms to check for any duplicate claims or claim forms filed without stating a value that was lost. Class members who need to correct their claims will get a letter in about two weeks, said Anthony Majestro, a lawyer for the residents.
In the meantime, lawyers are waiting for the final approval order from U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver Jr.
“We don’t have any money to pay anyone because without that order, we don’t have funds to pay,” Majestro said.
After the order is filed and all claims are processed, there will be an appeal period of about a month before settlement checks are distributed. Simple residential claims will likely be sent out before personal injury, business and government entity claims, Majestro said.
Claims were due Feb. 21. According to a report filed on March 20 by the settlement administrator, the claims include 86,917 household claims, 5,683 business claims, 408 government entity claims, 500 wage earner claims, 1,302 pregnancy claims and 345 medical claims.
The $151 million class-action settlement covered anyone who may have received tap water from West Virginia American Water Company’s plant on the Elk River, or whose business suffered because of the spill.
In January 2014, a chemical known as Crude MCHM spilled from a storage tank at Freedom Industries into the Elk River, just upriver from West Virginia American Water’s plant in Charleston. An estimated 300,000 people were told not to drink, clean with, bathe with or otherwise use the water for days.
The class-action lawsuit alleges that West Virginia American Water Company didn’t react to or prepare for the spill, and that MCHM-maker Eastman Chemical Co. didn’t properly warn Freedom Industries of the chemical’s dangers or take appropriate action.
Both West Virginia American Water and Eastman Chemical place blame on Freedom Industries, which admitted to criminal violations following the spill. Several Freedom officials also pleaded guilty to pollution charges, including former company leaders Gary Southern and Dennis Farrell, each of whom was sentenced to 30 days in jail.