West Virginia Chemical Spill Company Files for Bankruptcy

The company blamed for a chemical spill that left hundreds of thousands of West Virginia residents without safe drinking water has filed for bankruptcy.

Freedom Industries filed for Chapter 11 protection Friday, eight days after a chemical used to process coal leaked from one of its storage tanks into the Elk River, contaminating the drinking water of 300,000 people in nine counties.

The bankruptcy filing temporarily shields Freedom from at least 20 lawsuits filed against it because of the spill.

Workers pump 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, a foaming agent used in the coal preparation process, out of a 48,000-gallon tank at Freedom Industries, a chemical storage facility, in Charleston, West Virginia on Jan. 10, 2014. /AP Workers pump 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, a foaming agent used in the coal preparation process, out of a 48,000-gallon tank at Freedom Industries, a chemical storage facility, in Charleston, West Virginia on Jan. 10, 2014. /AP

According to the bankruptcy paperwork, the company has up to $10 million in assets and liabilities and owes nearly $4 million to its creditors.

Residents were advised after the spill not to use their tap water for drinking or bathing. Officials lifted the tap water ban Friday, but urged pregnant women not to drink the tap water.

West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has promised a full investigation into the accident. However, environmentalists say the state has been reluctant to regulate and enforce pollution controls on the powerful chemical and coal industries which are so crucial to the region's economy.

VOA News / Jan. 20, 2014 08:16 KST