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Freedom Industries pleads guilty to pollution charges

Chemical spill contaminates West Virginia’s Elk River.


CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A now-bankrupt chemical company has pleaded guilty to three pollution charges related to last year’s spill that contaminated a West Virginia river.

Mark Welch, chief restructuring officer of Freedom Industries, entered the plea on behalf of the company March 23 in federal court in Charleston.

Freedom faces a maximum $900,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled June 29.

The spill of thousands of gallons of a coal-cleaning agent into the Elk River prompted a tap water ban for 300,000 Charleston-area residents for days.

Two former Freedom owners and two lower-level employees pleaded guilty to a pollution charge last week and will be sentenced in June.

Another former Freedom owner, Dennis Farrell, and former president Gary Southern face trial later this year on spill-related charges. In addition, Southern faces charges related to Freedom’s bankruptcy.

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