Curtis Tate Published

Attorney Who's Sued Carbide 4 Times Pushes for Civil Penalties

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Union Carbide wants to voluntarily clean up an industrial site in South Charleston, but an attorney who’s suing the company says that’s not good enough.

Michael Callaghan, the Charleston attorney who’s filed multiple lawsuits against Union Carbide in U.S. District Court, says the company violated the federal Clean Water Act.

In a letter to the Department of Environmental Protection, he says the company shouldn’t be allowed to clean up the site without paying civil penalties.

Callaghan says Union Carbide can’t use the state agency’s Voluntary Remediation Program as long as it’s the subject of multiple federal lawsuits.

The site in South Charleston, which was an industrial landfill from the 1950s to the 1980s, has been contaminating Davis Creek, a tributary of the Kanawha River.

Expert testing of Davis Creek has revealed high levels of arsenic, chromium, cadmium, lead, selenium, mercury and other toxic substances.

Callaghan has filed four lawsuits since 2018 seeking to force Union Carbide to clean up the site and pay civil penalties. The most recent lawsuit was filed last month.

State officials last October issued a violation against Union Carbide under the West Virginia Water Pollution Control Act. The company appealed.

In July, the Department of Environmental Protection proposed a settlement agreement in which Union Carbide would clean up the site, but not pay any civil penalties.

Earlier this month, Union Carbide submitted an application for the state’s Voluntary Remediation Program to clean up the site. The state agency accepted the application and is negotiating an agreement.

In his letter, Callaghan asked the state agency to revoke the application within 10 days. Otherwise, he said he’d seek a restraining order from U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver, who’s overseeing the case.