Chemical Leak
5:09 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

Freedom Industries Submits First Phase of Tank Decommission Plan

Freedom Industries
Credit AP

Freedom Industries has submitted the first phase of the Tank Decommission Plan for its Charleston facility, site of the Jan. 9 chemical spill of MCHM into the Elk River.

The plan, which has been approved by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, was prepared for Freedom Industries by Civil & Environmental Consultants Inc., of Export, Pa. It details the order of activities, accompanying procedures and safeguards workers will use to begin the removal of above ground storage tanks (ASTs) at the facility, including the tank that leaked (known as No. 396) a mixture of  MCHM and PPH that tainted the water supply for 300,000 West Virginians across nine counties.

On Jan. 24, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin ordered Freedom Industries to begin the process of dismantling, removing and properly disposing of all of its ASTs, as well as associated piping and machinery, at the Elk River site by Saturday, March 15. The governor’s directive was included in Consent Order 8034 issued by the DEP and signed by Freedom Industries.

What Freedom has accomplished so far:

  • Most of the tanks’ liquid inventory has been removed (some small amounts, known as "tank heel", remain)
  • Workers have already cut a hole in Tank No. 393 (another tank at the site), located on the far north end, to remove the tank heel.
  • Freedom has conducted an asbestos survey to facilitate the demolition of the tanks and associated infrastructure

What's next for the decommission plan?:

  • Contractors will first begin removing ASTs on the north end of the Freedom Industries’ property, near the faulty tank No. 396. 
  • Tank No. 396 will be cleaned and sandblasted by the Chemical Safety Board (CSB).
  • Contractors will remove the floor section of the tank, which will be retained by the CSB.

Safety guidelines for the tank decommission process:

The DEP has said that, during tank removal, steps will be taken to control dust and other airborne emissions from the property. No on-site burning will be permitted. The DEP warned that odors associated with MCHM will likely increase as construction activities intensify at the site.

  • Efforts also will be made to control the infiltration of stormwater on site and to minimize its contact with other on-site and potentially contaminated water.
  • Impervious liner materials will be used to cover areas exposed during tank removal operations.
  • Workers at the site must take all steps necessary to prevent spills or releases to the ground or Elk River.

Prior to both entering into a demolition contract and commencing field work at the Elk River facility, Freedom Industries is required to give 48-hour notice to the DEP, representatives for the Litigation Parties per U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Ronald Pearson’s Feb. 21 Order, and to counsel for the Unsecured Creditors Committee.