CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection says more overflows of stormwater “just can’t happen” at the Freedom Industries site along the Elk River in Kanawha County — the starting point for the Jan. 9 chemical spill that contaminated tap water in parts of nine West Virginia counties.
Randy Huffman, state DEP secretary, said Freedom Industries has been cited for pump problems that lead to overflows of a stormwater trench — a collection point for groundwater and runoff potentially contaminated with MCHM — on both Thursday and Friday of last week.
Since then, Freedom has submitted plans to prevent future overflows of the 120-foot long containment trench as work to dismantle the site continues. As proposed, the company will double its runoff pumping capacity and have contractors on-site for continued monitoring 24 hours a day.
“If they will actually do on the ground what they said they’re going to do in the plans that we asked for and got, then I’m very confident (overflows will not happen again,)” Huffman said. DEP inspectors have been at the Freedom site daily.
An undetermined amount of water potentially contaminated with trace amounts of MCHM did make it into the Elk River last week. Multiple tests of water from the Elk River and the Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant — which sits downstream — have shown non-detect levels of MCHM in the water.
“It’s hard to plan for massive amounts of rain in a situation like that, but it just can’t happen. We cannot allow for it to happen. I am confident that our folks are going to be much more diligent and vigilant,” Huffman said on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
Work to dismantle the chemical storage tanks at Freedom Industries could start as soon as later this month. That process has been delayed many times.