NEW YORK, JAN. 6 -- It is too early to assess Ashland Oil Co.'s potential liability in the collapse of one of its tanks that created a major oil spill into two waterways upstream from Pittsburgh, analysts said today.
Any determination of the potential litigation costs will depend on the class-action suits filed against Ashland in the aftermath of the Saturday spill, which could affect municipal water systems and wildlife in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky -- states bordering the Ohio and Monongahela rivers.
"In no way, shape or form is this a Bhopal or Three Mile Island. There's no loss of life, no one's been injured and the environmental damage may not be long-lasting," said Bernard Picci of Salomon Brothers Inc.
Picci said it remains unclear whether insurance will cover cleanup costs associated with the spill.
The company could be liable for any treatment costs incurred by four West Virginia cities whose drinking water is threatened by the collapse, according to a West Virginia environmental official.
Eli McCoy, an official with West Virginia's Department of Natural Resources, said that if an incident involving Cincinnati is considered a precedent, Ashland may have to pay costs incurred by the cities of Wheeling, St. Marys, Chester and Huntington in treating their water and may be liable for revenue lost if they are forced to shut down their systems.