The owners and operators of a chemical company that dumped 10,000 gallons of toxic chemicals into a West Virginia river last year are one step closer to facing a judge and jury of their very unhappy peers.

Four owners and operators of Freedom Industries were indicted this week on charges of negligent discharge of a pollutant, negligent discharge of a refuse matter and violating an environmental permit. The company's president, Gary L. Southern, was also charged with wire fraud, making false statements under oath and bankruptcy fraud, the New York Times reports, possibly linked to the company's immediate declaration of bankruptcy after the spill.

An environmental consultant and tank farm manager were also indicted and face similar environmental charges.

The environmental violations reportedly carry a three-year maximum sentence.

The chemical spill occurred last January, when the company accidentally released 10,000 gallons of a chemical called MCHM just upstream of the Kanawha County water supply on Elk River.

According to the Times, health officials told residents it was "their choice" whether to drink the water or not, and estimated around a fifth of households suffered adverse reactions—skin irritation, drowsiness, prolonged vomiting, and breathing difficulties.

[image via AP]