Better Late than Never: WV Governor Orders Removal of Freedom Industry Tanks

Governor Tomblin, according to a January 25, 2014 news release, has ordered Freedom Industries to begin the process of dismantling, removing and properly disposing of all of its above ground storage tanks, as well as associated piping and machinery, at its Etowah River Terminal in Charleston, WV, by March 15, 2014.

fuel tanksLawmakers normally respond to public sentiment; this is how our representative system of government works.   When enough interested citizens and injury victims voice support for better laws, it is up to the lawmakers to respond and choose between helping the corporations make more money and helping to keep our population safe from wrongdoers and unsafe conditions.

Lawmakers thus far have not completely caved in to the desires of the corporations and insurance companies, because a majority of people have voiced their outrage over corporate greed and their role in causing an increase in incidents involving serious injuries and deaths.   It takes a constant flow of information to lawmakers about injury victims’ plights, and that’s where trial lawyers and their associations are effective in protecting your rights.

One of the reasons the chemicals spilled into the Elk River was the lack of adequate secondary containment areas, which meant the only place for the chemicals to go, if leaked from the tank, was into the soil and river.  This is exactly what happened on January 9, 2014, when the magnitude of this spill caused the shut down of all drinking water to nine West Virginia counties, 300,000 people, and a great number of businesses.

For the original story about the Charleston, WV Chemical Spill, see our article, “Chemical Spill Sickens Hundreds” published January, 11, 2014.

The Governor has ordered Freedom Industries to move all the contents of the remaining fourteen tanks by the Elk River to an off-site facility that provides adequate secondary containment.  All of the tanks holding the MCHM and PPH (PPH was about 7% of the chemicals leaked) chemicals are now empty, but the remaining fourteen tanks include Calcium Chloride and Glycerin.

Calcium chloride is a type of calcium salt used for many purposes, including de-icing sidewalks and acting as a stabilizer in foods.  Some dangers exist if too much calcium chloride enters the body.  If ingested, calcium chloride can cause a burning pain in the stomach, nausea and vomiting.  Another possible symptom of prolonged exposure to calcium chloride is dry and irritated skin.

Freedom Industries will also be required to provide the WVDEP with reports of the progress of this relocation of chemicals and materials.

Questions about your legal rights when you have been exposed to toxic chemicals or questions about financial losses for your business?  Call the Robinette Legal Group in Morgantown, WV today:  304-594-1800 or after hours, 304-216-6695 or just click here to visit our website.

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Three WV Teens Killed in Head-on Collision with Fire Truck

Due to the sheer physics involved in head-on collisions, the resulting injuries are typically severe and catastrophic. All too often, head-on collisions result in fatal injuries.  Tragically, such was the case in January 2014 when three, 16 year-old teenagers were killed in a violent crash with a fire truck on a Saturday night in Hancock County, W.Va., in the state’s northern panhandle.  The three firefighters were treated at the hospital and released.  I have been seated across the table with families far too many times as they are experiencing the greatest sorrow of their lives.  “If only…” is everyone’s recurring thought.

Sheriff’s officials said the fire truck was traveling north on state Route 8 near Tomlinson Run State Park, responding to a call about a chimney fire at about 9 p.m., when a southbound vehicle pulled into the northbound lane in an attempt to pass another vehicle. The driver was unable to return to the southbound lane and collided with the fire truck from the New Manchester VFD.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a head-on collision caused by another driver’s negligence, it is important to have an experienced personal injury attorney on your side.  At Robinette Legal Group, we are dedicated to helping injured people and their families recover compensation for the losses they have suffered. We are prepared to handle the most complex cases involving serious injuries and wrongful death.Beside_Still_Waters_-_Covers_3D

We have the skill and resources to handle cases involving catastrophic injuries and wrongful death. If you have been seriously injured, an experienced car accident lawyer will carefully assess the full extent of the damage and how it will affect you today and in the future.

West Virginia Motor Vehicle Collision Attorneys:  We Can Help.

Questions?  Call us today:  304-594-1800 or after hours, 304-216-6695 or click here to visit our website.

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Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/region/2014/01/19/Three-high-school-students-die-in-West-Virginia-traffic-accident/stories/201401190199#ixzz2r0B3QtVS

Chemical Contamination of Elk River Causes West Virginia Health Hazard

The public health emergency began on Thursday, January 9, 2014 when the chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM), from a tank owned by Freedom Industries leaked out of a 40,000-gallon tank along the Elk River.

Nine West Virginia counties and as many as 300,000 people have been affected, and water has been shut off to these areas for five days. Residents in these counties were told to not drink, bathe in, or wash their dishes or clothes with their water, which could only be used for flushing toilets.

The Governor of West Virginia announced the White House has approved a federal emergency declaration to assist with the emergency water situation in nine West Virginia counties.

The state of emergency resulting from the chemical spill includes West Virginia American Water customers in Kanawha, Cabell, Boone, Putnam, Lincoln, Logan, Clay, Roane and Jackson counties.

According to West Virginia State Health officials, at least five people have been hospitalized and hundreds of residents have called the West Virginia Poison Center to report concerns or symptoms of toxic exposure related to a chemical spill in the Elk River, including nausea, vomiting, dizziness, diarrhea, rashes, headache, and reddened skin.

Click here to read more….

West Virginia Toxic Exposure Lawyers

 

Questions?  Call us today:  304-594-1800 or after hours, 304-216-6695.

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Could the Minneapolis Explosion and Fire Have Been Prevented?

Natural gas can be a relatively inexpensive and efficient heating fuel, but the dangers of explosion, fire, and carbon monoxide poisoning which can result in permanent injury or death are safety hazards which must be, and can be, prevented by homeowners and landlords.

Gas Explosion Suspected as Cause of Minneapolis Apartment Fire

Recently in Minneapolis, MN fourteen people were hurt, at least three critically, and two bodies discovered as a result of an explosion and fire that rocked a three-story apartment building in Minneapolis in early January 2014, forcing residents to jump from windows and flee to the streets into subzero temperatures.

By the time firefighters arrived, smoke and 20-foot flames were pouring out of the second and third stories of the building, and residents were jumping out of the windows.

Explosive devices have been ruled out by investigators.  Residents reported a natural gas odor shortly before the explosion, though some investigators deny any natural gas lines running in or near the building.  Other types of gas are also being considered as possible causes for the spark which caused the explosion.

It is horrible to think of all of these people in this mostly Somali neighborhood having to evacuate and lose their homes and possessions in sub-zero weather, reportedly as low as -4˚F with a -24˚F wind-chill, having to run out into ice and snow covered streets to attempt to gain safety for themselves and their children.  Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of this explosion; it is not yet known who or what was at fault.

West Virginia Natural Gas Fatal House Explosion

In October of 2013, a similarly tragic situation occurred in Follansbee, WV, a small town south of Weirton in Brooke County.  A family had recently purchased and was still moving into this home when an explosion likely caused by a natural gas leak obliterated this rural West Virginia home.  Tragically, this violent explosion killed their 13-year-old daughter and seriously injured three others.  The blast was so powerful it shook the entire neighborhood, blew out the windows of a nearby fire station, sent plywood siding rocketing nearly 50 feet into the air, and shot boards through other houses.  Three other houses were damaged – one knocked off its foundation.natural gas explosion in neighborhood

In addition to the fatality, the girl’s parents and a sister were injured and taken to hospitals.  An especially tragic aspect of this story is that half an hour before the explosion, a neighbor had called local authorities to report a possible gas leak.  The fire department responded, but found nothing.  Shortly after they left, the house exploded.

Investigators are trying to determine whether or not the gas leaked in the house from an outside source, or was a leak within the house.  Either way, when the gas reached a high enough concentration, even the most mundane action could have deadly consequences.  Once the concentration is high enough, all it takes is a pilot light or even a light switch being switched on to cause an explosion.

How can you prevent a natural gas explosion from happening in your home?

Explosions such as the ones in West Virginia and Minneapolis are rare, but I advise that homeowners and landlords have an approved maintenance worker check for leaks around stoves, furnaces, and hot water heaters.  Firefighters in every county in WV receive dozens of natural gas related calls each year from homeowners like you.

When purchasing an appliance, look for the UL markup to ensure it has met safety standards, and if you are purchasing a used item, have it checked by a knowledgeable professional.

If you do smell the “rotten egg scent” from the odorant added to natural gas, mercaptan, react quickly and shut off the source if possible, and call a professional or 9-1-1.  If the scent is strong, evacuate the house or building, get a safe distance from it, and call emergency help immediately.  Do not smoke, use a lighter or flashlight, cell phone, turn on a light switch, or use other electronic devices in or near the house.  If possible, turn off the gas from the outside of the home.

Wise homeowners can also install a gas detector to make sure your home and family doesn’t suffer the effects of a natural gas leak.

Homeowners should also have their furnace and water heater exhaust pipes checked regularly for safety to prevent backup and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Landlord’s Obligation for Safety of Rental Property

West Virginia landlords are required to maintain a leased property in a condition that meets requirements of applicable health, fire, and safety housing codes.

Sometimes a natural gas leak is caused in part by the negligence of a landlord, repair technician, or faulty piece of equipment. Landlords and professional service technicians are held to the highest standards of accountability for the safety of those they serve.

One of the problems that city and county building inspectors face is that many older buildings are not equipped with modern electrical and gas services and alarms throughout the buildings.   These older buildings were “grandfathered in” decades ago when stricter building codes were adopted.

This allows some landlords to do minimal repairs on their buildings, and never comply with current building and safety codes.   However, some cities and counties have required work permits on every kind of repair to certain buildings, and before the permit is granted, an inspection is done and the building is required to come up to code.

Some landlords skirt these requirements by doing the work themselves, under the radar of the city.   When they are caught doing the work without a permit, they risk having their building closed down.     No city or town can keep up on the status of every building.    When a tragedy does strike, there may be significant responsibility on the landlord, and perhaps the building inspectors, for allowing an unsafe building to be occupied.

That’s why you need knowledgeable and skilled lawyers to enforce the rules.   Remember, trial lawyers are for the public’s safety, we enforce the rules when others won’t.

Questions?  Call us today:  304-594-1800 or after hours, 304-216-6695.

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 Sources:

Silver, Jonathan, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “West Virginia Girl Killed in Natural Gas Explosion,” October 11, 2013.

Forliti, Amy.  ABC News. “Body of Second Victim Found after Minneapolis Fire.”  January 3, 2014.