CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Water quality testing turned to a second chemical, PPH, following revelations from Freedom Industries the chemical was mixed in with the crude MCHM that leaked into the Elk River back on Jan. 9 and contaminated the water supply for customers in parts of nine counties.
On Tuesday, Freedom president Gary Southern told officials with the state Department of Environmental Protection the crude MCHM, a coal processing chemical, was mixed with polyglycol ethers, PPH, in the tank that had been leaking.
Southern claimed he was not initially aware PPH was still being combined with MCHM to account for about 5 percent of the tank’s total volume.
Laura Jordan, spokesperson for West Virginia American Water Company, said the utility and other state officials were notified of the presence of the second chemical late Tuesday.
“Public perception-wise, the timing of this is very troublesome,” Jordan said on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control said because of the small amount of PPH, which is reportedly less toxic than MCHM, and its solubility, “It is likely that any amount of PPH currently in the water system would be extremely low. However, the water system has not been tested for this material.”
Those with WVAW were working with the Bureau for Public Health and the West Virginia National Guard, overnight Tuesday into Wednesday, to analyze present and past water quality samples at labs in both South Charleston and Huntington.
Jordan said preliminary tests showed “barely detectable” amounts of PPH and that, according to state chemical experts, the water treatment process likely removed the chemical. However, she said results of the PPH testing would be released publicly when the analysis was finalized.
“We do not anticipate that there was any additional risk based on this chemical, but we do need to prove that to our customers,” said Jordan. “We do need to show that to our customers because, 12 days later, information that’s coming out only further might erode the public’s trust in this whole process.”