City Lawsuits to Come After Spill; People Demand Legislative Change

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- People demanded change at a water vigil at the Capitol, and Charleston City Council decided to move forward with lawsuits because of the massive Jan. 9 chemical spill.

Holding candles, dozens of people prayed at a water vigil to honor the Kanawha River.

"Now's the time when we can bridge people together across difference and make a change," said Maya Nye.

Organizers said they want to break barriers and connect the community.

Their goal: to prevent another chemical spill and make sure lawmakers hear their voices.

"We recognize now that there are chemicals that we're exposed to that we don't even know what their toxicological effects are, you know," Nye said. "We have no idea because they weren't required to be tested before going to market."

People like Rebecca Roth of Charleston joined in.

"I haven't been very active, but this is so important, it's time to be here," Roth said.

Some held signs, others clapped, and in the midst of it all, there was the sound of music as some artists played their guitars.

"Water has been something that I've taken for granted, and it definitely makes me think about my long-term future in Charleston," Roth said.

Environmental, religious and other speakers also took part, sharing their demand for accountability and legislative change.

Just up the street, Charleston city officials also are demanding accountability.

Council members voted unanimously to move forward with lawsuits because of the spill.

"The damage they've done has affected hundreds of thousands of people," Charleston Mayor Danny Jones said.

But determining that damage is tough.

"It's an incalculable amount of money, because we're going to be affected in the future," Jones said. "The reputation of this community has really come under attack with those chemicals pouring in the river."

Still, city officials said they expect to file those lawsuits soon.

Jones said he's not sure who all the plaintiffs or targets of the lawsuits will be.

He said that's something that will likely be determined in the near future.

He also said Freedom Industries' recent bankruptcy filing would not change anything.

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