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Claim forms going out, website launching for chemical spill claim filings

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The thousands of residents, business owners and others affected when the 2014 Freedom Industries chemical spill contaminated tap water in parts of nine West Virginia counties are starting to receive forms for reimbursement claims.

The first claim forms began arriving in Wednesday’s mail which was the same day a claim filing website was scheduled to launch at wvwaterlitigation.com and wvwaterclaims.com.

Claims can be submitted immediately either online or by mail using the Claim ID number provided on claim forms. Forms are also available for download at the websites.

Additionally, the number for phone assistance with claims is 855-829-8121.

“Everyone that was affected will get some money,” said Paul Dalzell with Advocates for a Safe Water System.

His organization is one of those involved in the years of litigation that have followed the MCHM spill and subsequent water emergency when a “Do Not Use” order was issued.

Up to $151 million is available as part of a settlement with West Virginia American Water Company and Eastman Chemical reached in connection with the Jan. 9, 2014 spill on the Elk River. As part of the settlement, the two companies do not admit liability.

In general, the six main categories for claim filings are residential, business, hourly wage earners, medical, pregnancy and government.

The framework for claim payments is as follows:

Residential Households – $550 + $180 per additional resident
Shutdown Business Claims – $1,875 plus 4% of annual revenue up to $41,875
Lodging Business Claims – $5,000 to $64,000 based on annual revenue.
Other Businesses – $1,875
Nonprofit Organizations – $1,875

“This is money that the people affected are owed and it will be coming from the companies that were not found at fault, but they were involved in the contamination event,” Dalzell said.

At the earliest, payments are not going to be distributed until after the deadline to file which is Feb. 21, 2018, according to information posted at wvwaterlitigation.com.

This Saturday, a community meeting on the claim submission process will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Charleston Civic Center’s Little Theater.

Attorneys with Thompson Barney are scheduled to be on hand to answer claim questions along with those with Dalzell’s organization.

“If you had other damages, (like) you’re a homeowner and you had to replace your hot water heater or you had to replace the filtration system, or business owners that lost business and lost net profit, any or all of that, we can answer your questions,” Dalzell said.

Freedom Industries filed for bankruptcy soon after the spill.

In September, U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver gave preliminary approval to the $151 million settlement with West Virginia American Water Company and Eastman Chemical.

A final hearing on the settlement is set for Jan. 9, 2018 which will be the 4th anniversary of the spill that left thousands of West Virginians without usable tap water.

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