UPDATE: Freedom Industries Winding Down Operations

By: WSAZ News Staff, The Associated Press Email
By: WSAZ News Staff, The Associated Press Email
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UPDATE 2/25/14 @ 6 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- For about two hours Tuesday, a row of officials from Freedom Industries sat and answered questions from a U.S. trustee and creditors.

The company's president, Gary Southern, says he has been spending about 15 hours a day on site where the spill happened.

“I pretty much live at Freedom Industries,” Southern said.

Currently, they're in the process of liquidating inventory. There are still materials in the warehouse and in some of the storage tanks.

It was one of those tanks that leaked -- causing about 10,000 gallons of the chemical MCHM to spill into the Elk River and contaminate the water supply for hundreds of thousands.

Freedom officials said in court that they don't believe any improvements have been made to those tanks since the property was purchased in 2002.

The tanks are still being cleaned out, and they say the next step will be environmental remediation of the ground, which soaked up the chemical.

There are still agreements in place where chemicals are being purchased by coal companies.

As for the 51 employees, Freedom is in the process of terminating their 401k plans.

Southern did make a brief statement after the hearing.

“This has been an extremely traumatic event for everybody to deal with; particularly our employees. As far as the corporation’s position, you heard us testify in court reference the bankruptcy. We're absolutely committed to the people in the state of West Virginia in terms of our remediation of the facility and our employees with whom we are working extremely hard to find them new positions for those who will be displaced as a result of the bankruptcy. That is the forefront of our focus and will continue to be until we meet all of our obligations. That's all I have to say. Thank you,” Southern said.

Southern would not answer any questions from reporters, and nearly seven weeks after the spill; there has been no public apology from Freedom Industries.

Freedom's financial road was rocky before the spill even happened.

Chief Financial Officer Terry Cline said in court that his predecessor was arrested in connection with tax evasion fraud and that he had falsified documents.

Cline said he had to redo those documents and has spent the past three to four years resolving issues with the IRS.

ORIGINAL STORY 2/25/14 @ 3:12 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A few of the hundreds of creditors seeking compensation from the company at the center of West Virginia's chemical spill questioned top company officials in bankruptcy court.

At Tuesday's meeting administered by a U.S. Department of Justice official, Freedom Industries President Gary Southern and Chief Financial Officer Terry Cline answered questions on company finances from a federal trustee and fewer than 10 attorneys representing creditors.

After the hearing, Southern told reporters he's "absolutely committed" to cleaning up environmental damage and finding jobs for 51 employees as the company winds down operations.

Freedom is next scheduled in court March 4, when it will ask to hire a firm to collect electronic evidence for state and federal investigations and legal proceedings.

The Jan. 9 spill contaminated 300,000 West Virginians' water for days.

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