CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The top man at Yeager Airport believes adding the airport to a class action lawsuit over the January chemical spill at Freedom Industries is laughable. Rick Atkinson says the airport has no liability for what happened Jan. 9.
“Freedom Industries, whose idea of toxic spill mitigation was a cinder block and a bag of kitty litter, “said Atkinson.”To blame us is a stretch and we’ll vigorously defend ourselves.”
Yeager was added to the lawsuit as a defendant last week, mainly because of a runway extension project that began in 2004. The plaintiffs allege the work changed the contour of the hillside above the tank farm impacting the flow of water above and below the surface contributing to the deterioration of the tanks on the tank farm.
Charleston Stuart Calwell, who represents many members of the class action suit, believes the airport is on the hook for some of the fallout
“We think our runoff study will show that was a material contribution to the degradation for the tank farm,” said Calwell.
Atkinson doesn’t buy the claim.
“All the water was diverted away from the Freedom end into two outfalls,” he said. “As a matter of fact there are 26 outfalls that are approved by the DEP and none of those are in close proximity to Freedom Industries.”
“The airport project was fraught with violations,” said Caldwell. “In terms of how the land was altered, how the runoff was to be controlled, catch basins, engineering to take into account the change in direction and peak flow of water.”
Atkinson matins all runoff permits on the airport runway project nearly a decade ago were approved by the DEP. He adds the airport has never gotten a complaint from Freedom Industries before, during, or after the work was completed.
The chemical crude MCHM spilled from a Freedom tank into the Elk River Jan. 9 setting off a water emergency. Demolition of the Freedom tanks could begin this week.