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February 14, 2005
Techsol Chemical Co. Tells State EPA It Complied with Federal Laws, That Other Parties Were Liable for Oct. 28, 2004 Westmoreland Spill
by Tony Rutherford
Huntington News Network Writer
Huntington (HNN) — Techsol Chemical Company and its president James Holt Jr. have filed an answer to the complaint filed by the West Virginia Dept. of Environmental Protection demanding that it pay for clean up costs for the Oct. 28, 2004 spill in Westmoreland which resulted in evacuations of nearby residents from their homes.
Like its response to the Class Action complaint by residents, the company's answer contains many denials and demands "strict proof" of any statutory violations. However, Techsol alleges that damages from the discharge of 22,000 gallons of Coal Tar Light Oil that led to the evacuation of 500 people were "the fault of third parties over which Techsol had no authority or control," including possible "persons, firms or corporations" other than Techsol.
"The plaintiff's alleged injuries were caused directly and proximately, in whole or in part, by the negligence or fault of third parties over whom the defendants had no authority or control," states Jon D. Hoover, counsel for Techsol and its president James Holt Jr.
At the time of the spill, Techsol was unloading a tanker allegedly belonging to Marathon Ashland Petroleum, LLC, which has been named as a co-defendant in the class action civil suit filed by Ronald Bush, Deborah Gavazzi, and Michelle Hardwick.
Techsol, through its counsel Jon D. Hoover, maintains that at all times the transloading complied with all FEDERAL regulations pertaining to such materials which they allege were not hazardous.
However, the W.Va. Department of Environmental Protection maintains in its complaint that the discharge contained "benzene, toluene, xylene, styrene, and naphthalene, which are extremely flammable, volatile and potentially explosive chemical compounds." The State Department of Environmental Protection has alleged a litany of state statutory violations including the Air Pollution Control Act, West Virginia Water Pollution Control Act, the Groundwater Protection Act, the Solid Waste Management Act, the Hazardous Waste Management Act, and the Hazardous Waste Emergency Response Act.
The company admits the transloading operation began in 1999, but they did not "believe [state] permits were required."
These legal documents are on file at the Wayne County Courthouse, Wayne, WV. They are available for members of the public to read at the Courthouse. Copies, however, are fifty cents per page. The case(s) are identified as Ronald Bush and Michelle Hardwick, et. al. v. Techsol Chemical Company, et. al., Case 04-C-261, and Stephanie R Timmermeyer, WV Dept. of Environmental Protection v. Techsol Chemical Co., Case 04-C-284. (The Circuit Clerk tracks the filings by case number, so if you want to read the documents the pertinent ID's are simply 04-C-261 and 04-C-284.)
— 12/06/04 HNN INVESTIGATES: Documents Reveal TechSol Had Been Cited Before Oct. 28 Spill in Westmoreland; Many Residents Complained About Strong Odors
— 01/28/05 Techsol Claims in 40-page Answer It Met All Federal, State Regulations; Asserts That Chemical Spilled Wasn't Hazardous or Capable of Sickening Nearby Residents
Editor’s Note: A civil suit seeks monetary or other relief against a defendant. Thus, no “guilt” or “innocence” is determined. The standard for determining liability is a “preponderance of the evidence,” which a 51-49 percent ratio. (Criminal cases use a rather “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard which is a 99 percent ratio.) The filing of the civil action does not guarantee a case will go to a jury. Numerous pre-trial procedures allow both sides to obtain documents and testimony before the trial date. The judge determines the significance of the circumstances based on legal standards during the pre-trial state. If the case is set for trial and no settlement occurs, a jury will determine what facts are believable and whether to assess monetary or other penalties.
The writer, Tony Rutherford, can be reached by email at .