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Lawsuits filed in wake of water contamination

one by the state of Kentucky, have been filed against Childers Oil Co. in the wake of allegations the firm is responsible for contaminating the Whitesburg water supply.

Meanwhile, Childers Oil has released an open letter to the public inviting citizens to access its website to view the results of independent lab tests on water samples taken from the river.

Childers Oil also announced in the letter that it is in the process of moving all of its old tanks to a site well away from the river and Whitesburg’s water intake.

The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet (EEC) this week filed a lawsuit in Franklin Circuit Court against Childers Oil Inc. and Mountain Rail Properties in relation to diesel fuel allegedly found leaking from fuel storage tanks being stored at Mayking.

The suit seeks a temporary injunction against the companies to prevent further discharges into waters of the commonwealth and to prevent the disposal of additional site where the spill originated.

Two other lawsuits have been filed against Childers Oil in Letcher Circuit Court. In one, 10 businesses and 39 individuals are seeking payment of money they claim they lost when the Whitesburg water system was shut down for a period in November when petroleum products were found leaking into the river at Ermine.

The businesses and their owners named in the lawsuit, prepared by Pikeville attorney Steve Owens, are Josephine Richardson doing business as (d/b/a) The Courthouse Café; Elaine Painter, a veterinarian with an office at Parkway Plaza; Rita Hall d/b/a Rita’s Cougar Hall; Kathy Kincer d/b/a Hobo’s Diner; Joel Beverly d/b/a Summit City; Kristy Spangler d/b/ a Shear Beauty; Jerry Collins d/b/ a Jerry’s Barber Shop; Bonita Adams d/b/a Appalachian Early Child Development Center; Richard Brown d/b/a Cut-Away Barber and Beauty Salon; and Kenneth Patula d/b/a McDonald’s.

Individuals named as plaintiffs are Barry Amburgey, Jim Mullins, Joel Beverly, Amelia Kirby, Shelia Rose, Josephine Richardson, James Hall, Ashley Collins, Stephanie Conrad, Charles Cowden, Martin Adams, Randy Taylor, Selena Taylor, April McIntosh, Renee Hall, Georgia Hall, Tonya Wilson, Anthony Wilson, John Hopkins, Tracy Blair, David Fields, Craig Conrad, Gladys Davis, Matthew Caudill, Rita Hall, Elaine Painter, Kathy Kincer, Jeff Burns, Karen Burns, Shannon Hogg, Opal Strange, Judith Adams, Nancy Adams, Grant Eldridge, Billy Martin, Adam Holbrook, Gwendolyn Holbrook, Tilitha Spenger and Vada Toler.

The complaint says the plaintiffs have suffered a loss of value to real property, loss of income and other economic loss, loss of enjoyment of real property, loss of the enjoyment of the Commonwealth’s rivers and streams, inconvenience, severe emotional distress, and in some cases bodily damages.

Pikeville attorney Ira Branham and Louisville attorney Damon B. Willis filed a class action lawsuit against Childers Oil in Letcher Circuit Court on February 25. Named as plaintiffs in that action are Kathleen Brown, Ken Trent and Ken Trent Jr., all of Whitco, and Jimmy Adams, Michael Absher and Michael Adams, all of Whitesburg.

“There are at least 4,000 people that would fall into the class that the representatives seek to repre- sent,” the complaint filed by Branham and Willis says. “Although the representative plaintiffs do not know the names or identities of all potential members of the class, their identities and addresses can be readily ascertained.”

The complaint says that Childers Oil on at least two occasions has caused chemical substances including diesel fuel to invade the homes, land and air of the plaintiffs along with other citizens and residents making up the class members.

The complaint says the plaintiffs are entitled to current and future monitoring of their water and soil to determine whether it is or has been contaminated by the diesel spills caused by Childers Oil Company.

Both complaints seek a jury trial.

A fourth lawsuit naming Childers Oil as a defendant was filed last week by retired Whitesburg attorney Peyton Reynolds. Reynolds, who lives at Ermine, claims he was sickened as a result of drinking water contaminated by fuel from the Mayking leak.

In an open letter to the public which appears this week in The Mountain Eagle, Childers Oil says it will continue to test the river for diesel fuel contamination.

“As promised, we continue to test water samples every day along the river from our property to the water intake of the water plant, as well as treated water from the plant,” the letter says. “Every test comes back as clean as the ones we received from an independent lab taken from along the river the evening of February 16. Those results are posted at www.childersoilcompany.com for anyone to review.”

The company, which operates convenience stores in 17 counties, said it hopes that many of the old tanks it has been storing at Mayking will be removed from the site by the end of this week.

“We continue the process of prepping the tanks temporarily stored at the Mayking site,” the letter says. “Each one will either be reconditioned for reuse for customers or recycled as scrap. The status of each depends on the type and condition of the tank as well as approval by the appropriate authorities. We are currently preparing a secure, graded lot away from the river to store the tanks identified for reuse until they can be shipped out to customers. We expect that more than half of the tanks will be moved or returned to inventory by the end of this week.”

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