CSB holds Charleston public meeting to follow up on 2014 Freedom spill report

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — After the U.S. Chemical Safety Board released a report on the 2014 Freedom chemical spill Wednesday morning, a public meeting was held for residents in Charleston on the report’s findings Wednesday evening.

The report found that the chemical MCHM, which contaminated the drinking water of 300,000 residents in parts of nine counties, did not cause significant long-term health issues since the spill. Still, many had their concerns.

“I’m troubled by the things that are missing from the report,” said Phil Price, a Charleston resident with a Ph.D. in chemistry who has spent 40 years working for chemical companies. “I think it’s a little bit like spill 101. We know the who, but the what we don’t know. The actual chemicals that were spilled, there’s never been a detailed analysis of the actual spill components.”

Del. Mike Pushkin (R-Kanawha, 37) said he attended the meeting like many looking for answers, and to see what he could do to work with the legislature to prevent another similar crisis.

“More information. That’s really what everybody around here wants. To find out what the long-term affects of that chemical were that so many of us accidentally ingested, or bathed in, or washed our clothes in. And really to get the recommendations of the CSB.”

Smith wasn’t at all convinced that WV American Water company was prepared for another incident.

“If things don’t change I think the probability is quite high that we will have yet another. Right now, the continuous monitoring that WVAWC has installed will not detect MCHM,” he said. “It will not detect diesel spills, gasoline spills; it wouldn’t detect aircraft deicer that came from the(Yeager) Airport in the event of a problem up there.”

But WVAWC company spokesperson Laura Martin said that since the 2014 spill, all utilities are on their guard.

“West Virginia American Water among every water utility in the state of West Virginia is better prepared following this type of event. There’s a lot of important information, but more importantly a lot of regulations that have changed.”

Marin was initially glad that the report laid most of the blame for the spill on Freedom Industries for its negligence.

“We were pleased to see that the report was focused on the criminally negligent conduct of Freedom, and the role of that conduct in the overall event.”

Several former Freedom Industries officials have served time in federal prison in connection with their roles in the operation of the company and the spill.

Like the morning press conference, Wednesday evening’s public meeting was held at the Charleston Four Points Sheraton.

The board approved the report, agreed to reconsider some issues and write a supplemental report in response to citizens’ concerns.

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