Whereas most people impacted by the West Virginia Chemical Spill are not thinking of the legal implications of their hardship at the present time, as they have much more pressing considerations in locating clean water, environmental contamination lawyers nevertheless want to advise individuals and small businesses of the legal issues they will face in the aftermath of the water crisis—specifically how individual action relates to any action that may be taken on behalf of the government and how the losses and inconvenience they have suffered may be compensable.
First Consideration: Clean Water and Information
As in most environmental disasters such as the West Virginia Chemical Spill, the first priority for affected individuals is to ensure that their health and that of their loved ones is provided for. In the case of the West Virginia Water Crisis, that has mainly involved securing clean water with which to drink, bathe and cook. After providing for their immediate needs, often individuals want information about the crisis and steps being taken to address the impact of the disaster on the community as a whole. For both concerns, the Kanawha County website is a good source of information, as is a page set up for Facebook users wanting information on the spill.
Preparing for a Return to Normal
With water contamination levels apparently improving and government officials indicating that the crisis will eventually pass, impacted West Virginia residents can assume that life will once again return to normal in their neighborhoods and communities. Indeed, as of January 13, at least 30 restaurants have been given conditional approval to reopen even while the water crisis continues. As the crisis abates, many will begin the process of assessing the extent to which the chemical has impacted them personally, as well as their loved ones and businesses.
A number of small business owners were forced to close in the aftermath of the spill, resulting in lost income. Likewise, a number of workers lost pay during the time that their employers were closed. Many individuals endured the inconvenience of having to travel long distances for places to shower or find drinking water. Some people developed health problems requiring medical treatment and, in some instances, hospitalization. Finally, those who were exposed to the chemicals released into the water supply may have a fear of developing health problems in the future.
Options in Response Being Impacted by the Water Crisis
As people begin to assess how the West Virginia Chemical Leak has impacted their lives, loved ones and businesses, some will begin to question what can be done in response to the crisis both to address its cause and to provide compensation for losses suffered as a result of the crisis.
As for the governmental response, the US Attorney launched a criminal probe on January 10. From a Wall Street Journal article:
“U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said his office has opened a criminal investigation of the spill. State and federal authorities want to know whether company officials knew the chemical was leaking and whether they failed to immediately report it as a hazardous spill—potential criminal violations of the Clean Water Act and a federal reporting law—said a person familiar with the investigation.”
If violations are found, both the state and federal governments could file lawsuits or bring criminal charges against the companies responsible for the spill on behalf of the public at large. Additionally, it is anticipated that state officials will consider tighter regulations on chemical storage facilities in an effort to ensure that incidents such as the West Virginia Chemical Spill do not happen again.
Government Action May Not Provide Affected Individuals with the Help They Need
However, whereas governmental action in response to the West Virginia Water Crisis may be helpful to the public at large, it is important to note that governmental action, whether through the courts or by regulation, does not provide compensation for individuals and small businesses affected by the spill. Compensation for losses sustained by the fault of others must be sought through the courts in a civil lawsuit where the affected persons or small businesses, either individually or in groups, bring a claim against those responsible for their losses.
Have Questions About Your Legal Rights in Regards to the West Virginia Chemical Spill? Contact a Lawyer Today.
If you or your business have been impacted by the West Virginia water crisis, it is important that you secure clean water for you and your loved ones and keep yourself informed of the latest developments until the crisis passes. When life once again returns to normal, and if you have questions about your legal options in response to the chemical spill, seek a qualified chemical spill and water contamination lawyer to help advise you on the legal issues facing you.
Affected individuals may be eligible for compensation for health issues, lost wages and inconvenience. Small business may be eligible for lost income as a result of having to shut down during the crisis. The American Injury Attorney Group offers free consultations regarding your legal rights, and we can connect you with an affiliated attorney who can assist you in obtaining fair and just compensation for your claim.