Elk River Chemical Spill

Dave Mistich / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

After the chemical leak from the Freedom Industries site was discovered, some blame was quickly placed on the state Department of Environmental Protection for not properly regulating the tanks. But soon enough, both the public and state lawmakers found out the DEP had no authority over the inspection of those tanks.

That quickly changed as the 2014 legislative session progressed, passing a law to create a registration and inspection program.

Friday marks one year since a chemical tainted the drinking water supply for 300,000 people in and around Charleston, leaving some without usable water for as many as ten days. State lawmakers immediately took action to regulate aboveground storage tanks like the one responsible for the contamination, but the regulatory effort is on going.

Mike Youngren / Presidio Studios in Lewisburg

Mike Youngren has lived in Charleston for the last 20 years. A West Virginia Public Broadcasting alum, Youngren pursued filmmaking after retiring. When the January 9th chemical leak happened, Youngren decided the problem was widespread enough for people to stop to pay attention to what he had to say. With this in mind, he decided to develop his documentary, Elk River Blues.

Patrick Morrisey, W. Va. Attorney General
Janet Kunicki / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A West Virginia attorney general report says the company behind last January's chemical spill knew of its facility's defects for years.

The report released Thursday by Attorney General Patrick Morrisey office's says in 2010, one manager's report even said "a potential catastrophic failure" could occur without drainage improvements.


Three executives charged in a chemical spill last January in West Virginia have pleaded not guilty.

Former Freedom Industries officials Dennis Farrell, William Tis and Gary Southern entered pleas Thursday in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Dwane Tinsley in Charleston.

Farrell and Tis were released on $10,000 bonds.

Southern posted a $100,000 bond in a Fort Myers, Florida, federal court Dec. 9. He was arrested Dec. 8 on a criminal complaint from an FBI affidavit.


Environmentalists, activists and artists of all sorts are commemorating the one year anniversary of a chemical spill into the Elk River near Charleston. The spill of MCHM by Freedom Industries tainted the water supply of 300,000 West Virginians across nine counties and left them without usable tap water for days. 

Here's a list of some of the events happening around Charleston and elsewhere to mark one year since the spill: 

Dave Mistich / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Federal investigators say a company that spilled chemicals into the water supply for 300,000 people knew about some facility defects for more than a decade.

An FBI affidavit unsealed Wednesday says Freedom Industries employees were aware of a cracked, insufficient containment wall when a subsidiary bought the facility in 2001. A 2008 inspection noted the deteriorated wall. It was never fixed.


  State officials haven't received inspection certifications for 20,000 of 49,000 aboveground tanks due New Year's Day.

The Department of Environmental Protection says it's also determining what's wrong with 80 specific tanks.

Inspections deemed the still-operating tanks unfit for use. They contain hazardous substances, are near water supplies, or both.

Freedom Industries

A study says federal officials overlooked risks of inhaling licorice-smelling fumes from a chemical that spilled into West Virginia's biggest water supply.

The Purdue University study says some people became ill after flushing their pipes of the chemical last January. The spill spurred a tap-water ban for 300,000 people for days.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention marked a baseline for how much chemical-laden water people could drink safely. It didn't consider other contact methods, like bathing or breathing.

In this piece from The Atlantic, Anya Groner uses January's chemical spill of MCHM into the Elk River to set the stage to discuss the history and future of issues surrounding safe drinking water.

Freedom Industries
Aaron Payne / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

  Another former Freedom Industries executive wants U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin's office removed from prosecuting criminal charges in a chemical spill.

Ex-Freedom president and part-owner Dennis Farrell filed Tuesday's motion in Charleston federal court.

Farrell's lawyers claim Goodwin's office has a conflict of interest because its employees and their families were victims of the Jan. 9 chemical spill that left 300,000 residents without tap water for days. Another ex-Freedom president, Gary Southern, filed a similar motion.


Federal prosecutors want a former executive charged in a January chemical spill on home confinement with electronic monitoring.

Freedom Industries

A grand jury has indicted four former executives of a chemical company on pollution charges in a spill that prompted a drinking water ban for 300,000 West Virginia residents.

An indictment unsealed Wednesday charges ex-Freedom Industries presidents Gary Southern and Dennis P. Farrell and two others with failing to ensure that Freedom operated the terminal that leaked in a reasonable and environmentally sound manner.  

The former president of the company responsible for January's chemical spill that tainted the water supply for 300,000 West Virginians has been arrested on federal fraud charges. As the Charleston Gazette reports, Gary Southern has been charged with bankruptcy fraud, false oath in a bankruptcy case and wire fraud.

West Virginia utility regulators are again postponing hearings for the water company affected in a January chemical spill.

In an order last month, the state Public Service Commission canceled hearings scheduled Feb. 10-12 for West Virginia American Water.

The commission is probing the water company's response to a chemical spill that tainted its water supply. The Freedom Industries leak spurred a tap-water ban for 300,000 people for days.

Freedom Industries

  The bankrupt company that leaked a coal processing chemical into Charleston's Elk River in January could reduce the amount of contaminated material it needs to clean from its polluted storage site.

The Charleston Gazette reports that West Virginia state environmental regulators revealed a proposed agreement Thursday in which Freedom Industries would enter a voluntary toxic cleanup program to remediate the site.

On West Virginia Morning, residents of Mill Creek in Randolph County had to chance to review maps of a proposed natural gas pipeline to see if it is near or crosses their properties.  And from Grant County, Liz McCormick is with Curtis Fleming of the Outdoor Channel as he teaches some young boys to fly fish. 

Small Business Administration
U.S. Small Business Administration

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - The deadline is approaching for West Virginia small businesses and nonprofit organizations affected by the January water crisis to apply for low-interest federal loans.
     The U.S. Small Business Administration says applications for the economic injury loans must be received by Wednesday. Working capital disaster loans of up to $2 million are available at 2.625 percent for private nonprofits and 4 percent for small businesses, with terms up to 30 years.

Dave Mistich / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

  The Environmental Protection Agency has begun air monitoring at an industrial site in Charleston that fouled public drinking water supplies to 300,000 customers in January.

Unveiled Friday, the monitoring will be done at the Freedom Industries plant along the Elk River to determine if any chemicals are released into the air as the site is cleaned up.

The Charleston Gazette reports that the program's debut comes three weeks after the removal of more than one dozen chemical storage tanks.

Department of Environmental Protection

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection will conduct a public hearing Thursday evening on the  draft interpretive rule for the Aboveground Storage Tank Program.

The new program is a requirement of Senate Bill 373, which passed the West Virginia Legislature in March after the January 9th chemical spill in Charleston contaminated drinking water.