Company in West Virginia chem spill receives 'symbolic' fine

AP News
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Posted: Feb 04, 2016 4:02 PM

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A bankrupt chemical company responsible for a spill that contaminated a West Virginia river and fouled the drinking water supply of 300,000 residents has been sentenced to the maximum possible penalty on pollution charges.

But a federal judge in Charleston said his sentence Thursday of a $900,000 fine and five years' probation for Freedom Industries was symbolic and likely would never be paid.

Freedom filed for bankruptcy eight days after the January 2014 spill. A federal bankruptcy judge approved a liquidation plan in October.

At a separate hearing Thursday, former plant manager Michael Burdette became the third Freedom official to be fined and sentenced to probation.

The spill of a coal-cleaning agent into the Elk River prompted a tap-water ban in nine counties for up to 10 days.