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.
Both 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.