CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A South Charleston resident says exposure to a chemical that contaminated water in several counties caused her to be hospitalized with a chemically induced form of pneumonia.
Melissa Jean Medley filed the lawsuit Tuesday evening in Kanawha County Circuit Court against Freedom Industries and West Virginia American Water Co.
This lawsuit is one of many related to the Jan. 9 leak of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol into the Elk River at Freedom Industries' facility.
The chemical made its way into the West Virginia American Water treatment facility that supplies water to nine counties.
Jesse Forbes, Medley's attorney, said his client didn't find out she wasn't supposed to use the water until after she had taken a lengthy shower.
In her lawsuit, Medley said she was admitted to Thomas Memorial Hospital the next day with chemically induced pneumonitis.
The suit said tests indicated "an abnormal condition to her lung, extreme coughing, and vomiting requiring medical attention."
"She's been admitted in the hospital for days with what we believe may be a chemically induced form of pneumonia," Forbes said, noting she still was in the hospital as of Tuesday afternoon. "She's having extreme trouble breathing, experiencing congestion, sinus problems, burning sensations and other medical effects."
Forbes said before that day, she did not experience any known health problems.
Forbes said Medley recently received a visit from nationally recognized environmental and legal activist Erin Brockovich, who was in town Monday night to conduct a town hall-style meeting in Charleston.
Forbes noted Brockovich's visit was before his involvement in the case but understood Brockovich had reached out to Medley and spoke to her about her concerns.
Forbes said he doesn't yet know when Medley will be released from the hospital.
"It's a scary time for her and her entire family," he said. "We are concerned about what the ultimate effects are. Right now, she's trying to get better."