CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The inclusion of Yeager Airport as a defendant is the federal class action lawsuit in connection with this year’s chemical spill and water emergency could prove costly for the state’s busiest airport.
“It’s certainly a big problem for Yeager and a problem that’s going to affect Yeager in the long term to try and defend itself in a class action case,” Kanawha County Commissioner Dave Hardy said Tuesday.
The lawsuit now alleges Yeager didn’t do a good job monitoring its runway extension project that began above the Freedom site in Charleston in 2004 and runoff from the site contributed to deterioration of Freedom’s chemical tanks that eventually lead to the Jan. 9 incident.
Commissioner Hardy said he expected Yeager to “vigorously” defend itself.
“But it’s very costly to defend yourself,” Hardy said. “It’s a large case, a class action, and is probably going to go on for years.”
Dozens of cases have been filed and now combined in federal court against Freedom Industries after the leak of the chemical crude MCHM into the Elk River just above West Virginia American Water Company’s Kanawha Valley Plant. The spill created a water emergency in parts of nine West Virginia counties impacting 300,000 residents. The plaintiffs have named Freedom, the water company and now Yeager Airport and its contractor.
Hardy admitted the inclusion of Yeager as a defendant caught him off guard.
“I don’t know particulars as far as the allegations where there is any merit to them or not, but it’s certainly not good news that Yeager has been brought into this case,” Hardy said.
The state Division of Forestry did deal with logging companies removing trees as part of the runway project over concern about runoff. The class action suit alleges Yeager did a pre-blast study and knew Freedom’s tanks could be impacted by the project.
Yeager Airport Manager Rick Atkinson released a statement Tuesday saying Freedom Industries never once filed a complaint with Yeager about the runway extension project happening above it. He also says Yeager’s work was approved by the state DEP and a DEP official overseeing the Freedom site saw no issues coming from Yeager.