CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A lead investigator with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board said people in and around West Virginia’s capital city are more than a week into experiencing what happens when a chemical storage facility is located near a water source and something goes wrong.

Freedom Industries sits along the Elk River, less than two miles upstream from the Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant which supplies more than 300,000 West Virginia American Company customers in parts of nine West Virginia counties.

“It’s one that is fraught with the possibilities of something bad happening and, in more cases than not, nothing bad happens.  In those rare instances where there is a release, post incident, the hindsight provides any number of opportunities missed,” said Johnnie Banks of such a location.

Banks and his team arrived in Charleston, earlier in the week, to start the investigation into the leak of crude MCHM, a coal processing chemical, that prompted a week-long do-not-use water order in some areas.

In the coming weeks, Banks said the investigation will include a forensic examination of the tank where the chemical was being stored prior to the leak.

In a Friday report, “The Charleston Gazette” cited a source close to Freedom Industries who claimed the leak of MCHM was the result of a broken pipe near the company’s Charleston site that pushed water under the company’s tank storage area along the Elk River.

The source told the newspaper the water froze in record cold temperatures last week and punctured the tank, from below, when it expanded.  An estimated 7,500 gallons of crude MCHM leaked from the tank and made it into the river on Jan. 9 after a secondary containment failed.

On Friday’s MetroNews “Talkline,” Banks said any comment he made about that report would be speculation.  “At this stage of our investigation, we haven’t made any determinations of that nature,” he said.

In Washington, D.C., U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) is co-sponsoring two bills with U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) that would make those responsible for a chemical spill, even if the material is not deemed hazardous, pay for its cleanup and provide more funding for states and agencies tasked with cleanup.

“Last week’s enormous chemical spill poisoned the water supply for hundreds of thousands of West Virginians, devastated families and shuttered schools, businesses.  That crisis demands an immediate response,” said Rockefeller said in a statement.

“Our families and businesses have suffered tremendously and have born significant costs already.  This bill corrects a glaring hole in our law that leaves residents vulnerable to shouldering the cleanup costs associated with a non-hazardous chemical spill.”

Schatz joined the effort because of a 233,000 gallon molasses spill that happened in Honolulu last year.

Banks said, as part of the West Virginia investigation, the CSB will offer recommendations for changes to prevent or better respond similar leaks in the future.  His agency has done so in the past, following a 2008 explosion that killed two workers at Bayer and 2010 after an incident that claimed the life of a worker at DuPont, but not all of the recommendations were followed.

“We’re hoping that there will be a reinvigoration of activity around providing more oversight for facilities such as this,” he said.

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Comments

  • Uncle Unctuous

    "A lead investigator with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board said people in and around West Virginia’s capital city are more than a week into experiencing what happens when a chemical storage facility is located near a water source and something goes wrong."

    How perceptive. This investigator certainly is in the right line of work. He has managed to ascertain that a chemical was stored near a water source, that something went wrong, and that it happened more than a week ago. I look forward to further revelations!

    • Shadow

      Did you ever think he was explaining the problem to you? If so, he did a good job.

  • HOSA

    Freedom Industries files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy; lawsuits against company on pause

  • Jim

    Where was GWB when this spill took place? Better look into it. Even though hes been out of office for 6 years all bad things are his fault.

  • Mike

    Why is it that in this state the 1st thing we want to do is blame the republican party for something. To me this has nothing to do with rep or dem it has to do with the person who decided it was ok to allow a chemical company to store chemicals in tanks that are 300' from a river and 3/4 of mile upstream from a water intake for a water company that supplies water to over 300,000 people. That is the person or person's that need hung for this no matter the party affiliation. How many more places do we have in WV were we could have the same result as this. Thats what we need to be looking into. States were given money to create Home Land sucurity that were supposed to ID things like this. What if someone blew up this or that what would the outcome be. Apparently no one seen the danger in this location. I mean it's only what 3 or 4 miles from the capital building and planes only fly over it ever day leaving the airport. I guess if you are going to have something stored that could cause a travisty you may as well store it right under everyones nose.
    The clean up doesn't matter. The company will file bankruptcy and we all pay for it anyway. Move on from the blame game and solve the real problem.

    HOSA whoever you are you make me sick with your postings. I'm sick of politics I'm sick of all this crap. Start looking at the issue at hand and stop trying to bait someone into voting for your party. All politicians are sorry pieces of whale crap and that is as low as you can go.

    • Uncle Unctuous

      "To me this has nothing to do with rep or dem it has to do with the person who decided it was ok to allow a chemical company to store chemicals in tanks that are 300' from a river and 3/4 of mile upstream from a water intake for a water company that supplies water to over 300,000 people. That is the person or person's that need hung for this no matter the party affiliation."

      @Mike,

      Doesn't it have at least a little bit to do with the officers and employees of the chemical company itself and their apparent failure to adequately maintain and monitor the company's facilities, and to promptly report this leak to the authorities?

      Doesn't it have at least as much and perhaps more to do with that than with the regulators? After all, don't many American voters and political leaders believe strongly that industry should not be regulated? Don't many of these folks rail against the taxes that fund regulatory agencies? Regulators can only do what they are empowered by the people to do.

  • HOSA

    The Koch Brothers and the Teaparty Republicans want to eliminate all enviorenmental regulations so corporations can pollute the enviorenment freely in their quest for big bucks, without consequences. When will republicans wake up and realize that the people they are voting for, do not have their best interests at heart?
    Nearly every House Republican voted in support of HR 2279, including WV representatives, David McKinley and Shelley Capito. Only five Democrats voted in favor. Unbelievably, one of the five Democrats who supported this bill was WV’s Nick Rahall. The bill passed the House with 225 supporting votes and 188 opposing votes.
    The bill shifts the cost of clean up efforts onto the public.
    The bill also weakens the government’s power to force corporations like Freedom Industries to carry insurance designed to cover the cost of potential clean up efforts. Republicans claim they passed the bill because protecting citizens from the harmful effects of toxic spills is just “wasteful government spending.” The bill would shift the burden of the cost of clean up after such spills away from the companies responsible, and onto the public.

    • Uncle SAM

      Are you sure the following isn't what has given you so much HEARTBURN--- the Amendment makes it more difficult for the President to use the EPA to inflict punishment on those that may oppose him..

      9 SEC. 4. REPORT TO CONGRESS REGARDING FINANCIAL RE10
      SPONSIBILITY REQUIREMENTS.
      11 Section 108(b) of the Comprehensive Environmental
      12 Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (42
      13 U.S.C. 9608(b)) is further amended by adding at the end
      14 the following:
      15 ‘‘(6) The President may not promulgate any financial
      16 responsibility requirement under this subsection without
      17 first submitting to Congress a report—
      18 ‘‘(A) describing each facility or class of facilities
      19 to be covered by such requirement;
      20 ‘‘(B) describing the development of such require21
      ment, why the facility or class of facilities proposed
      22 to be covered by such requirement present the highest
      23 level of risk of injury, and why the facility or class
      24 of facilities is not already covered by adequate finan25
      cial responsibility requirements;
      VerDate Mar 15 2010 21:20 Nov 01, 2013 Jkt 039200 PO 00000 Frm 00004 Fmt 6652

    • Jim

      Is this the law that Obama signed in 2013? If it was a bad law why did he sign it? Oh and it passed the Democratic controlled senate as well. He could of vetoed it the buck stops with Obama.

    • Youareanidiot

      They did? Show some facts.