Justice for West Virginia: Ex-Freedom Industries execs indicted over chemical spill

Four charged with federal pollution violations following the massive environmental disaster

Published December 17, 2014 9:01PM (EST)

       (Steve Helber)
(Steve Helber)

Four former executives at the company responsible for West Virginia's chemical spill have been indicted for Clean Water Act violations, the Associated Press reports.

This is the second time this month that Gary Southern, the company's former president, has been charged in connection to the spill, which contaminated the drinking water of 300,000 West Virginians this past January -- the FBI arrested him last week on charges of bankruptcy fraud, wire fraud and lying under oath. Wednesday's indictment implicates Southern, ex-president Dennis P. Farrell, William E. Tis and Charles E. Herzing. The latter three owned the company up until December 2013.

Freedom environmental consultant Robert J. Reynolds and tank farm plant manager Michael E. Burdette were also charged on separate Clean Water Act violations.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder didn't pull any punches about Freedom's wrongdoing, which he said put the population "needlessly at risk."

“Just a mile upstream from Charleston’s primary source of drinking water, the conditions at the Freedom Industries facility were not only grievously unacceptable, but unlawful,” Holder said in a statement. "As these actions make clear, such conduct cannot, and will not, be tolerated. These law enforcement actions send an unambiguous message: that compliance with environmental safety standards is an obligation, not a choice."

"This spill was completely preventable," U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin added. "And this spill happened to take place in my district, but it could have happened anywhere. If we don't want it to happen again, then we have to make it crystal clear that those who will commit violations like this are held accountable."

By Lindsay Abrams

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Doj Eric Holder Freedom Industries West Virginia Chemical Spill