WVSU sues Dow over water pollution at Institute campus
West Virginia State University has sued Dow Chemical and former operators of the Institute chemical plant, alleging that the facility has contaminated the groundwater under the university’s campus.
University officials insist the contamination poses no health risks — the campus does not use groundwater for its drinking water.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Kanawha Circuit Court, seeks to force the companies to clean up the contamination, prevent future migration of the chemicals and compensate the university, a historically black institution, for harm to its image in the public and potential students.
“It is my hope that Dow will come to the table and take full responsibility for the mess it created,” Jenkins told reporters.
University officials and lawyers say three contaminants have been found at “elevated levels” in the groundwater 15 to 50 feet beneath the campus.
It was not clear which of the various chemical units that operated over the years at the plant led to the groundwater contamination.
University officials say they learned of the contamination about four years ago, when they took ownership from the state of the former West Virginia Rehabilitation Center, located between the campus and the chemical plant.
He said the administration waited to reveal the issue until it had conducted enough testing to be convinced there was no health concern and to be able to communicate that belief with its initial notification to students, faculty, staff and students.
Six years ago, then-plant owner Bayer CropScience eliminated MIC manufacturing, use and storage at the plant following a U.S. Chemical Safety Board report that was highly critical of plant operations and a major change in the company’s global marketing strategy.
Union Carbide, once a major institution in the Kanawha Valley, operated the Institute plant from 1946 until it sold the site to Rhone-Poulenc, a French firm, in 1986.