CHEMPOWER SETTLES POISONING CLAIMS

CHEMPOWER SETTLES POISONING CLAIMS

Chempower Inc. said it has paid $1.6 million to settle claims related to 15 former employees who alleged mercury poisoning while performing work at a power plant.

Chempower's chief lawyer Scott Lowrie said the medium-sized company was not admitting guilt. Rather, the company agreed to settle because of a $200 million potential liability had it lost in an unfriendly court in West Virginia, he said.Chempower removes asbestos and reinsulates industrial facilities. The former Chempower employees claimed they were exposed to the mercury in May 1989, when they removed a metal casing from a boiler at the Albright Power Plant, near Kingwood, W. Va. Monongahela Power Co. of West Virginia also was a defendant in the lawsuits.

Chempower said a $944,000 charge to cover the settlement has reduced Chempower's 1991 earnings by 13 cents a share. According to the new figures, it earned $808,000, or 11 cents a share, in 1991. Sales were $56.5 million.

"We're thankful (to have the case settled)," said Bob Rohr, Chempower's chief financial officer. "But there's a little bit of sour grapes because we didn't think they should receive anything. But that's business, I guess."