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Freedom says second chemical was in tank that leaked

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Freedom Industries told the state Tuesday there was a second chemical in the tank that leaked 7,500 gallons of crude MCHM into the Elk River earlier this month touching off the contamination of the water supply for 300,000 residents served by West Virginia American Water in a nine-county region.

Freedom president Gary Southern told the state he didn’t know the chemical PPH was still being mixed with MCHM.

A mixture of polyglycol ethers, PPH was approximately 5 percent of the tank’s total volume and possesses a toxicity lower than MCHM, according to Material Safety Data Sheets. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control told the state Bureau of Public Health Tuesday night that given the small percentage and the similar water 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.”

The CDC reported that current information on the toxicologic impact of PPH “does not suggest any new health concerns.”

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin criticized Freedom Industries Tuesday night for not telling the state sooner.

“This is totally unacceptable and Freedom should be held accountable for their actions,” the governor said.

The full statement from the CDC to the state Bureau of Public Health:

The West Virginia Bureau of Public Health received the following statement in an email from the CDC tonight.  Testing is ongoing and State officials are continuing to work with CDC and other experts to ensure the safety of the water for our citizens.

Earlier today, the manufacturer reported that another material was part of the chemical release that occurred on January 9, 2014. This material has been identified as a proprietary mixture of polyglycol ethers (PPH). It was in the same tank and entered the water system at the same time as the MCHM.  PPH represented a relatively small percentage (approximately 5%) of the total volume in the tank.

Toxicologic information on PPH is limited.  Based on the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) provided by the manufacturer, the reported toxicity of this material appears to be lower than the toxicity of MCHM  (LD50 > 2000 mg/kg for the primary component of PPH vs. 825 mg/kg for MCHM).  Given the small percentage of PPH in the tank and information suggesting similar water solubility as MCHM, 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.

An initial review of the currently available toxicologic information does not suggest any new health concerns associated with the release of PPH. At this point, toxicologic information about PPH is limited; however, CDC/ATSDR will continue to work closely with the State of West Virginia and its Federal partner agencies to search for additional relevant information.

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