The first batch of settlement checks to residents and businesses affected by the 2014 Kanawha Valley water crisis will go in the mail one week from Friday or Monday.
On Thursday, lawyers for the residents and businesses, and the settlement administrator, asked U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver for permission to distribute checks.
Copenhaver said he approved and will submit written approval, too, said Anthony Majestro, a lawyer for the residents affected by the 2014 chemical spill.
That means settlement checks will go in the mail one week from Friday or one week from Monday, Majestro said.
“This is a big deal it’s finally approved, it’s just the mechanics of printing and mailing checks,” Majestro said.
All told, checks will be sent to nearly 200,000 residents and businesses, totaling about $73 million.
“In essence, we’re putting $73 million back into the economy over nine counties next week,” Majestro said.
The checks will reflect an additional $1 million settlement, divided over the 200,000 checks, from Gary Southern, former president of Freedom Industries. Copenhaver approved the settlement Wednesday.
The checks will ultimately be slightly less than expected because the high volume of people who submitted claims. Residents will receive $482, additional residents will receive $157 and businesses will receive $1,645.
The class-action lawsuit doesn’t directly involve Freedom Industries, but said West Virginia American Water didn’t react properly to the Crude MCHM, which spilled from a storage tank at Freedom Industries into the Elk River in 2014. The lawsuit also says Eastman Chemical didn’t do enough to warn Freedom Industries of the chemical’s danger. Both companies blame Freedom Industries, which admitted to criminal violations following the spill.
The settlement is supposed to cover people who were told not to drink, clean with or bathe in the water for days after the spill.
The next batch of checks, which includes claims from government entities and people who lost wages, will be sent out in several months, Majestro said.