MetroNews staff photo

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Work to remove approximately 10,000 tons of soil contaminated with MCHM is getting underway on the former Freedom Industries site in Charleston. The site remediation work will be handled by Core Environmental Services and the contaminated soil disposed of in the Charleston Landfill.

“The contaminants in this soil are considered a non-hazardous waste stream and the Charleston landfill is designed to take that kind of waste,” said Department of Environmental Protection Spokesperson Kelly Gillenwater.  “They’re actually back filling the site with new dirt that has been tested to make sure there are no contaminants of concern in it.”

The leak of MCHM found its way into the Elk River in January 2014 and eventually into the Charleston Water Treatment Plant a mile downstream.  The spill caused a loss of water service for more than a week in parts of nine West Virginia counties.

Since then, the company has gone bankrupt and the tanks which formerly held the material have been dismantled and removed from the area.  All that sits there now are temporary “Baker” tanks which treat the groundwater which accumulates.

The process of removing and back filling the soil is expected to take about three months, although additional remediation requirements won’t have the entire clean project done until the third quarter of 2016.   During the work, it is possible residents could smell the tell-tale odor of licorice which became so well known during the original water emergency.

“Any time you disturb soil and you disturb that material there is the potential to stir that smell up again,” Gillenwater said. “However, the contractor will be taking measures to reduce any odors.”

The long range plan for the site will be at the discretion of the Freedom Bankruptcy Committee, but Gillenwater said there have been inquiries about future use of the site.

“Different companies and organizations have been interested in purchasing it, so it’s possible it could be sold and be used for another purpose,” she said. “We’re expecting the post reclamation use to be industrial of some sort and there will be some restrictions.”

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