Executives Get One Month In Prison For Massive Chemical Spill That Poisoned WV Water Supply

Crews clean up a chemical spill along the Elk River in Charleston, W.Va., which compromised the public water supply of eight counties on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Tyler Evert)

By John Vibes

Two former executives with the bankrupt Freedom Industries were sentenced to one month in federal prison for their responsibility in the chemical spill that poisoned water supplies in West Virginia over two years ago. The chemical spill tainted the water supply of 300,000 people in West Virginia for weeks.

The incident occurred in January of 2014 when the company spilled a coal cleaning agent into the Elk River in Charleston. The chemical ended up getting funneled into the drinking water for nine different counties.


Company owner Dennis Farrell and company president Gary Southern were the only executives to receive any jail time.

Both of them were charged with, and pleaded guilty to, negligent discharge of pollutant, causing a discharge of refuse and violating a condition of a Clean Water Act permit.

After the incident, the company was fined $900,000, but they declared bankruptcy quickly after the spill so the executives were able to avoid this penalty through liquidation.

300Both executives were remorseful in court.

“I’m truly sorry for what happened. My hope was, I wish I could go back with the knowledge I now have. I will never forget the lessons I have learned,” Farrell said prior to sentencing.

“Everyone knows me from an extremely poor television interview. I was very sick and intimidated. I am truly sorry,” Southern said.

Both were also fined $20,000 in addition to their prison sentence.

Four other executives from the company have been sentenced to probation and ordered to pay fines, but they managed to avoid jail time.

The executives were facing up to 3 years in prison and $300,000 dollars in fines, so many critics are saying that they got off easy. Many West Virginia residents who urged the judge to impose the maximum sentence were disappointed by the ruling.

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John Vibes is an author and researcher who organizes a number of large events including the Free Your Mind Conference. He also has a publishing company where he offers a censorship free platform for both fiction and non-fiction writers. You can contact him and stay connected to his work at his Facebook page. You can purchase his books, or get your own book published at his website www.JohnVibes.com.

  • bosunj

    Were a citizen to drop a teaspoon full of fuel into a waterway while filling their tanks they’d get a $25,000 fine. Big shot bankrupt businessmen with business licenses not so much.

  • Ben

    This happened just down the road from us in a way. We’re up outside of Ripley, WV, which is midway point between Parkersburg & Charleston, WV. It takes us between 20-45 minutes driving to get to either big city depending on freeway / highway traffic / weather.

    Demonstrates the old tune consistently played out. “The rich get richer, poor get poorer and worse for wear.” I am taking it better though. Read something written / said by Buckminster Fuller which helps me find perspective.

    “History’s political and economic power structures have always abhorred ‘idle people’ as potential troublemakers. Yet nature never abhors seemingly idle trees, grass, snails, coral reefs, and clouds in the sky.”
    “We find all the no-life-support-wealth-producing people going to their 1980s jobs in their cars and buses, spending trillions of dollars’ worth of petroleum daily to get to their no-wealth-producing jobs. It doesn’t take a computer to tell you that it will save both Universe and humanity trillions of dollars a day to pay them handsomely to stay at home.”
    – Critical Path
    Buckminster Fuller, 1982

    To me it emphasizes that all those in the business of money, are in the business of death. The guy out growing a garden two or four hours a day to provide his family with food, is in the business of life.

    I’ll choose life and living thanks.

    • Mike

      Indeed, well written! My wife and I are on our ways to producing our own food and electricity.

      • Ben

        Kind of our plan here too. In the process of finding a place for us, ourselves. We’re wanting a small hobby homestead farm. Got no illusions of growing us to say being another Koch.

        All heck breaks loose though we’ll have food. We’ll also likely be a bit back woods. Got no problem sharing if it’s all shared alike. No issue with barter and swapping. Come with malice, you won’t leave. We’re pacifist yet retain right of self defense.

        We’ll have food and skills to teach. I can still recall how to hunt, trap, fish, split firewood with an axe. Actually was doing a little splitting today. Pulled a dummy. Crashed for two hours because the blood pressure went up. Need to work back into working. * chuckles * Can still do it though, splitting wood with an axe that is.

        I can grow a garden. Planning on working smarter not harder at that. Lot of new methods on how to go about it out there now. I am especially happy I can talk to dirt farmers in China and get advice. It’s all about asking questions, learning to take a little time ahead, plan and keep repeating the process.

        As used to be said a generation before my coming, keep on keeping on. My generation I think brought us, “I aim to misbehave.” So we do what we can and pay no mind to the death dealers. Give them over your thoughts and they have you. Besides, if I have to see their fancy suits with the flashy little neck ties I realize I may need to grow up. That ain’t me. 🙂

  • Carroll Price

    When it comes to punishment for committing negligence and fraud, corporate America always gets a break. With the mayor of Flint, Michigan serving as current example.

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