Ex-Freedom Industries Officials Deny Guilt in River Spill

Former Freedom Industries Inc. President Gary Southern pleaded not guilty yesterday to charges related to a chemical spill that contaminated drinking water for 300,000 residents along the Elk River near Charleston, West Virginia.

Two other ex-officials also denied wrongdoing in federal court in Charleston: Dennis Farrell, another former president, and William Tis, a former secretary, according to court records.

The leak last year from one of Freedom’s tanks sent about 7,500 gallons (28,400 liters) of a cleaning agent used in coal-mining operations into the Elk River, contaminating water in West Virginia’s largest city and sending more than 100 residents to the hospital.

Southern is accused of depositing refuse in a navigable river and lying in the company’s bankruptcy filing, which was triggered by lawsuits following the spill. Farrell and Tis are accused of violations of a clean water law.

Southern was released on $100,000 bail, and Farrell and Tis were freed on $10,000 bail each, according to court records. A jury trial was set for March 10.

The case is U.S. v. Farrell, 14-cr-00264, U.S. District Court, Southern District of West Virginia (Beckley).

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