Settlement allows workers to get medical testing

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Under a proposed legal settlement, nearly 25,000 current and former coal preparation plant workers would receive testing to detect diseases potentially linked to toxic chemical exposure.


The deal offers the exams for plant workers in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and about 5,000 current or former West Virginia wastewater treatment facility employees.


Chemtall Inc. and a half-dozen other companies agreed to the nearly $14 million settlement to resolve litigation over exposure to chemicals used to separate solids from liquids during the processing of coal or the cleaning of municipal wastewater. Under the deal, the companies would pay $6.6 million to set up the medical monitoring program, and won’t oppose the workers’ lawyers petition for $4.65 million in fees and nearly $2 million for expenses.


The Charleston Gazette reports that the deal received initial approval last month in Marshall County Circuit Court.


“The settlement is preliminarily determined to be fair, reasonable and adequate,” Judge David W. Hummel Jr. wrote in the order.


A hearing is set for May 1 to consider final approval of the deal.


Lawyers for the workers and the companies said in a news release on Wednesday that they agreed to settle the case to avoid the cost and burdens associated with ongoing litigation.


The suits focused on a chemical that can damage the nervous system and has been linked to cancer. Lawyers for the workers alleged that employees were exposed to the chemical through skin contact, inhalation and potentially ingestion, putting them at a greater risk of serious illnesses.


Chemtall and other defendants have denied any wrongdoing, saying that the evidence of exposure amounts was not adequate to prove the workers’ case.


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