TO President Gary Southern and other top executives of Freedom Industries, they are the victims in the big water crisis.
Never mind that Freedom's aged and poorly maintained tank farm leaked 6,251 gallons of Crude MCHM, a little-known chemical with potential toxicity into the Elk River and into the area's water supply.
Never mind that the leak prevented 300,000 people from using their water for drinking, washing and cooking and forced the closure of hundreds of restaurants, costing shop owners and employees considerable income.
At a hearing Tuesday before U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Ronald Pearson, Southern told the judge that the company is in a "death spiral" because suppliers won't sell to it and its customers won't buy from it.
Freedom's attorney, Mark Freedlander told the judge that "A single incident created the issues the debtor (Freedom) now faces."
But the "woe is me" tone has been with Freedom Industries from the beginning.
The day after the leak - some 30 hours after a responsible chemical operator would have addressed the local media - Freedom held is first and only news conference. Southern repeatedly tried to cut it short, claiming, "It's been a long day." He seemed oblivious to the fact that his company's inept operations created a long day - in fact a long couple of weeks - for hundreds of thousands of people.
On Tuesday, in revealing to the Department of Environmental Protection that a previously unnamed chemical was also in that leaky tank, Southern reportedly told the DEP's Director of Emergency Response Mike Dorsey, "I'm going to have a terrible day today."
The people affected by contaminated water caused by Freedom's leak don't really care how long and difficult this makes the CEO's day.
And Freedom Industries' claims to the contrary - the leaking tank was not a single incident that victimized this poor small business.
Sure, accidents sometimes happen to the best companies. But this incident wasn't the case of "Act of God" damage to a well-maintained and operated chemical storage facility.
Anyone who has ever driven by the tank farm on Barlow Drive can see how poorly maintained the facility is. It wouldn't take much more than a casual glance to realize the structural integrity of the containment wall, designed to hold the contents of the biggest tank at the complex, was deficient. Neither did the company implement a response and clean-up plan that even closely resembled the industry standard.
Responsible companies operate in a responsible manner. And the most responsible thing they can do is to take steps to prevent a crisis that threatens the safety of their employees and the community.