MetroNews staff photo

Freedom Industries says it is still trying to figure out how much of a chemical spilled in the Elk River, contaminating the water supply to much of a nine-county region.

“Freedom Industries is still working to determine the amount of 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol, or Crude MCHM, a chemical used in processing coal, that has been released,” said company president Gary Southern in a prepared statement released Friday afternoon.

“The first priority was safety, containment and cleanup,” Southern said.

The spill, which occurred about one mile from the intake for the West Virginia American Water Company, led to a decision to tell an estimated 200,000 state residents not to use their water for anything other than flushing the toilet and putting out fires.

Southern’s statement suggests the leak is not yet contained.  “Our team has been working around the clock since the discovery to contain the leak to prevent further contamination,” he said.

Here is the entire statement.

“Since the discovery of the leak, safety for residents in Kanawha and surrounding counties has been Freedom Industries’ first priority. We have been working with local and federal regulatory, safety and environmental entities, including the DEP, Coast Guard, Army Corp of Engineers and Homeland Security, and are following all necessary steps to fix the issue.  Our team has been working around the clock since the discovery to contain the leak to prevent further contamination.  At this point, Freedom Industries is still working to determine the amount of 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol, or Crude MCHM, a chemical used in processing coal, that has been released, as the first priority was safety, containment and cleanup.


Freedom Industries is in the process of setting up an Incident Command Center on site. As more factual information is made available, we will keep you updated.”





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  • john engel

    i worked for gary southern in cincinnati, he screwed us big time before he went to freedom. The problem he has is he didn''t report the spill,which now can be jail time, so have fun gary, karma finally caught up yo ya

  • Canasialo

    Who is Gary Southern? Does he have a Facebook account or use other social media that can be used to shame him? In his press conference he stated he was tired and had a long day. WTF??? Who is this guy?

    • john engel

      i worked for the guy in cincinnati at univar, he is from england, all he cares about is the almighty dollar, he screwed us big time before he went to freedom, the problem he has is he didn't report the spill, thats jail time,

  • Cigarman

    Concern for safety before the leak would have prevented.......well, the leak!

  • Benthere

    Putting the politics aside....hexane is a very nasty chemical. The removal of this from water used for human consumption will be very difficult. I've worked the chemical industry for over 30 years and can tell you to avoid contact. Even after the the water is deemed safe to use take further precautions. You really do not know the concentration levels that showed at your connection to the system. Throw away all the ice from your ice maker...and the next batch after that. Make sure to purge your chilled water supply on the refrigerator door. There is about 30' hose inside the refrigerator and that is the staging area to chill the water. If you have a whole house humidifier on your furnace turn it off off now. The contaminates will go into the heating system. Also purge your hot water tank after the all clear is given. I hope this helps some people.

    • Karen molin

      Thks for this info to inform the people on the east coast and also everywhere else!

  • Pipeitter

    as I union pipefitter, have worked in enough of these plants and other types of plants to know that mistakes do happen. Although everyone I have been has a ridiculous amount of sensors and computers that can tell you in real time how much of something is in a tank and i that level is fluctuating faster or slower than normal. 24hrs later is a joke, they new exactly how much and exactly when the leak happened. Anytime anything fluctuates, we are sent into a meetin place and given direction and actions to take, and its uually done by a very loud alarm and its usually within a minute or 2 of whatever happened. I call BS

  • Debbie Paterson

    Another "incident" to help "Oba-me" get rid of coal!!

    • Really?

      Thank Obama for quickly approving disaster assistance.

    • Jason412

      What about this incident deserves quotations? That makes it sound insignificant

      And as I was informed by Bookman, this isn't a coal company. Look at, it's a chemical facility with over 4 Million gallons of chemicals on hand at anytime. Mining chemical's are only 1 of the 6 different types of products, and probably a small portion of hundreds of chemicals they sell. Apparently, they are the biggest producer of Freeze Conditioning Agents in America and seem to have satellite plants all over the country.

      There will be no backlash on coal, there will (hopefully) be a backlash on chemical facilities.

      • The bookman

        I would also suggest that their attention to safety detail is at best relaxed, but more accurately described as in need of significant attention...they better have deep pockets for damages and mandated reforms at all of their sites. Luckily it appears this was a discharge of a low toxicity chemical. Next time we might not be so lucky.

      • Earl Ray

        I also found it ironic that they produce chemicals for water treatment.

  • Debbie Paterson

    Ya know those commercials where the guy asks the little kids "what's better ....?"
    Well, what's WORSE? A toxic leak into the water or the company's "leadership" announcing 24 hrs later that they were UNAWARE of the leak?? Some "leadership" guys!

  • HOSA


    • Lois Lane

      Considering the lack of outrage from environmentalists and the left on this spill, I wonder if anyone has looked into the politics of Gary Southern and Carl L. Kennedy II. Did they give campaign donations? Were these friends of the late Sen. Robert Byrd or Nelson Rockefeller? Who did they vote for? Our answers as to why the EPA or any part of government allowed this facility only feet from a main water source just boggles my mind.

      • Lois Lane

        Correction: Jay Rockefeller. My history is showing. Automatically wrote Nelson. I apologize.

  • Barry Bledsoe

    I think it is amazing that people posting on the various articles here think that they know absolutely everything about this leak, the cause of it, and the supposed negligence of the business involved. I am not going to express an opinion on any of that, because like most of you, I do not know anything about it. I cannot say that the business owner was or was not negligent. I cannot say that there was lax inspections. I cannot say that this could have been prevented, and neither can you! People need to stop making assumptions based on a lack of information.
    Wait until the investigation is completed.

    • Gadfly

      Sorry Barry, but I've seen enough of the world to know there are no accidents.

  • AnxiousERR97

    Something called "4-meth" is bound to have an alternative use in ... What could it be?

    • Debbie Paterson

      Good one!

  • John

    I wonder, like everyone else, what was the root cause of that leak and how do we ensure this doesn't happen again, here or anywhere else.
    Profit before safety is often the norm right here in the good ole' USA. Get 'er done. Who needs to pay for safety people or inspectors ? They just hold up progress, right ? Who gives a damn about the health and safety of a bunch of hillbillys ? Better get rid of them unions and the NLRB, and OSHA, too. That'll fix it. PAY NO ATTENTION TO THAT MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN ! Now go back to watching your Fox news , you brain washed dumbass.

    • NoPartyPragmatist

      If you don't know the cause, how do you know it was profit before safety? Oh wait, that's because you're holy grail, apparently some reliable non-Fox source, said so? Looks to me like there is only one brainwashed person here...

    • Larry

      Where were all of those great inspectors from the DEP, EPA, etc. before this happened?

      • Jason412

        Everyone wants stronger regulations now. Any other time most on here are demanding the EPA be shut down and the EPA's sole mission is to destroy the coal industry.

        • Earl Ray

          Yeah, I think the point is it doesn't matter how many inspectors there are, if they don't do their job.

          • hilljack

            So true!

  • wvu999

    The republicans and Coal Association are right, get rid of the EPA!!! They can police themselves.

    • Mtmama

      If the EPA would focus on doing the job that congress gave protecting our citizens health rather than focusing on climate change, this kind of thing would be less likely to happen. This chemical is not even on Epa's list of risk chemicals. EPA should be held accountable as well as Freedom Industries and the state EPA who has to spend all their time chasing ghosts of climate change because of EPA.

  • jeff

    The only thing I trust less than government is big business. How long were they going to wait everyone could smell it in the air still wont tell if still leaking or not, shameful to say the least no monitoring with ancient tank so close to river no concern for residents

  • Mountain Man

    Well this gives the Obama administration one more reason to continue the attack on coal since this spill product is used to process coal. Unbelievable.

    • Debbie Paterson

      You're so right about that!! I sound like a nut-case but every time there's a coal-related tragedy, I think "oh crap, more ammo for Obama to get rid of coal!" And with every school shooting I think "Obama just got closer to taking our guns"!! I know I sound crazy... But geez!!!

  • Neil

    My water froze up this last big freeze, for three days without water and now I get it back only to be told can't use it. I'm not drinking the kool-aid. I've already showered twice and washed my clothes. There is nothing wrong with the water. I'm not going to participate. I think it's more distressing that that water is coming from the Elk River.

    • Petra

      If anyone did the math on the dilution ratio of 7,500 gallons into a mile and a half of water in that river they would be showering as well. Yes, a chemical spill of any type is bad for the environment. I am in the chemical business and can't believe the number of people jumping to conclusions without the benefit of having any facts first.

    • Oh Did Ya?

      I hope you are joking.