The West Virginia chemical spill has been detrimental to the local economy. Restaurants, hotels, retail stores, day cares, bed and breakfast inns and even airlines have suffered economic losses because of the leak that left 300,000 people without clean tap water.
On January 9th, about 7,500 gallons of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM) were discovered leaking out of a storage tank along the Elk River. The chemical spill prompted a state of emergency; people across nine counties were told to not use the water for anything except flushing the toilet. So far, over 30 people have gone to the hospital to treat nausea and other medical issues. MCHM is a coal-washing chemical. Not much is known about its long –term health effects. Short-term, it can cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea and skin and eye irritation.
Business owners have suffered economic losses since the West Virginia chemical spill began. Without water to prepare food, wash dishes or clean employees’ hands, nearly every restaurant was forced to close following the spill. Downtown Charleston, where much of the area’s commercial business is located, has been described as a “ghost town”. The row of bars and restaurants were closed up on Capitol street.
The business closure has been stressful for both business owners and their customers. Many store owners, restaurateurs and other entrepreneurs rely on local business to support themselves and their families. Conversely, West Virginia residents have found themselves extremely inconvenienced by the widespread closures. One resident, 52-year old Bill Rogers, told the Huffington Post as he stood outside a closed Tudor’s Biscuit World in Marmet just east of Charleston, “I haven’t been able to cook anything at home and was hoping they were open…It seems like every place is closed. It’s frustrating. Really frustrating.”
Dining is one of the biggest sources of tourism business in Charleston, and the Elk River chemical spill has put a severe damper on that industry. There are more than a dozen restaurants in the affected area, and many closed after the spill was discovered. Even large franchises, including McDonald’s, could not stay open.
With nine counties affected by the chemical spill, travel opportunities were quickly cut short. Bed and breakfast inns and hotels were not able to provide clean water for food, laundry or bathing.
Airlines have also taken a hit because of the spill. A total of seven inbound and outbound flights were cancelled at Charleston’s Yeager Airport. Airport spokesperson Brian Teacher said that the ban on tap water violated an agreement between unions for pilots and flight crews that hotels meet a certain standard for service.
The lack of clean water has also impacted businesses in shopping centers. Lisa McCracken, marketing director at the Charleston Town Center Mall, said after the spill “We’ve closed our restaurants and we closed our treateries. We’ve turned off all the public restroom faucets, and we have issued an advisory mall-wide to the tenants, telling them not to use the faucets in their establishments.” Starbucks employees had to run out and buy hand sanitizer after closing the coffee shop, said store supervisor Crystal Del Giudice.
Many business owners are seeking legal action because of the West Virginia chemical spill in Elk River. Parker Waichman is a national personal injury law firm with years of experience in class action environmental cases. On January 10th, Parker Waichman LLP, The Bell Law Firm, PLLC and Neblett, Beard & Arsenault filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of Kanawha Gourmet Sandwiches, LLC, a West Virginia sandwich shop. The class action was filed in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County, West Virginia (Civil Action No. 14C55), naming Freedom Industries, Inc. and West Virginia-American Water Company as Defendants.
Any businesses in the area that were affected by the chemical spill may be able join the class action lawsuit. Our firm offers free case evaluations for anybody that has questions about their legal rights.