Elk River Chemical Spill

The federal Chemical Safety Board is coming to Charleston to release findings about a New Cumberland metal recycling plant explosion that killed three workers in December 2010.

At the July 16 meeting, the board will also update the public on its investigation of a January chemical spill. The Freedom Industries tank leak contaminated drinking for 300,000 people for days.

Freedom Industries

  Industry groups are jittery that if state regulators require the wrong type of permit, companies could be subject to citizen lawsuits under a new environmental law regulating storage tanks.

State regulators disagree, and are convinced the law doesn't let citizens sue to enforce it.

The aboveground tank law calls for new inspections, registrations, inventories and other regulations. State lawmakers omitted a citizen-lawsuit option while crafting the law.

Freedom Industries
Aaron Payne / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Updated on Friday, June 13 at 11:12 p.m.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection says Freedom Industries failed for a second straight day to prevent a stormwater collection trench overflow at the site along the Elk River. The incident follows a similar overflow of stormwater discovered Thursday.

The DEP says Friday’s discharge coincided with a heavy downpour of rain at around 5 p.m. and lasted nearly an hour before being brought under control through increased pumping.

“To have this happen twice in two days is outrageous and unacceptable," said DEP Secretary Randy Huffman in a news release issued Friday night.

Notices of Violation are being issued for Friday’s discharge as well. They will include a mandate that Freedom respond by noon Saturday with an outline of how the system will be redesigned to prevent future overflows.

"Freedom and its environmental consultant should have a system in place to handle heavy rainfall. If a better system is not implemented immediately, the DEP will take action to bring in a more responsible contractor to handle it,” said Huffman.

Two notices of violation were issued for Thursday’s incident. One for allowing a discharge from an unpermitted outlet and another for failure to comply with the terms and conditions of an order to implement an approved sump management plan.

West Virginia American Water, which has a drinking water intake a mile and a half downstream, has been notified and will be collecting samples of raw water coming into the plant intake as well as treated water. Initial results are expected late Friday night.

Testing of raw and treated water samples after Thursday's discharge came back at non-detectable levels.

Updated on Friday, June 13 at 4:50 p.m.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued two Notices of Violation Friday to Freedom Industries following the overflow of a stormwater collection trench meant to keep rainwater that has come into contact with potentially contaminated soil from entering the Elk River.

According to a news release issued Friday afternoon, one of the violations is for allowing a discharge from an unpermitted outlet. The second is for failure to comply with the terms and conditions of a prior order to implement an approved sump management plan.

Updated on Friday, June 13 at 11:40 a.m.

  The DEP says in a news release that results from a second set of test samples on water analyzed following an overflow of stormwater at the Freedom Industries spill site into the Elk River have come back showing non-detectable levels of MCHM. These results follow earlier test results released by West Virginia American Water that also showed non-detectable levels of the material. The news release says the latest results, which came from Research Environmental & Industrial Consultants Inc., also known as REIC Labs, were for four samples of raw water and four samples of treated water from West Virginia American Company’s Charleston plant, the intake for which is about a mile and a half downstream of the spill site.  The DEP says the samples were delivered to the Beaver lab last night and results came this morning. The testing was unable to detect MCHM at 2 parts per billion. 

Updated on Friday, June 13 at 9:40 a.m.

In a news release, West Virginia American Water says overnight test results continue to show no detection of MCHM in water at the Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant. A total of six samples of raw (river) and treated water taken at the plant at different times before 10 p.m. were tested for MCHM overnight. All results show no detection.  

Updated on Friday, June 13 at 1:17 a.m.

West Virginia American Water says in a news release that initial tests of raw (river) and treated water at their facility show no traces of MCHM.

The water company announced Thursday they had just finished changing the last of carbon filters at the treatment plant after beginning the process on April 1. The filters were changed after testing by an independent research group known as WV TAP indicated the filters were leaching MCHM into the water supply.

The water company says additional test results will come overnight. They say staff members are continuing to monitor the situation and are working closely with the Bureau for Public Health and the DEP.

Original Post from Thursday, June 12, 2014 at 10:51 p.m.

According to a news release, a DEP inspector noticed water overflowing from a containment trench at the site of the Freedom Industries cleanup. The news release says a pump in place to handle overflow to a storage tank stopped working, and the inspector restarted the pump, which stopped the overflow.

The DEP says it isn’t yet clear if the water entering the river contained any amount of crude MCHM — the material spilled at the site back on January 9. Samples of the water are being collected from the trench. Additional samples are also being collected downstream at West Virginia American Water Company’s intake, as well as treated water. The DEP says those samples will be tested at multiple labs, with results expected by Friday morning.

West Virginia American Water
Foo Conner / Flickr

West Virginia American Water has replaced its filters and no longer detects chemicals that spilled into its water distribution system in January.

A news release Thursday says the utility has only used new filters since May 23, when it removed the last of 16 filters tainted in the spill.

Results returned Thursday showed no chemical traces in water heading to people's homes and businesses.

Freedom Industries

Demolition of the steel tanks at the Freedom Industries tank farm along the Elk River is expected to begin before the end of the month.

Gov. Tomblin ordered  the tanks to be dismantled two weeks after the chemical spill in January. Because Freedom has filed for bankruptcy, all of the company’s financial transactions have to be approved by a bankruptcy judge. That approval was granted on Friday.

Attorneys and financial advisors for Freedom had hoped the tank dismantling could begin this week. However, obtaining all necessary permits is expected to take a few more weeks.

Freedom Industries

Above-ground storage tanks can now be registered online to comply with a West Virginia law inspired by a January chemical spill.

Owners have to register their tanks on the state Department of Environmental Protection's online registration site by Oct. 1. This will help DEP complete a required inventory of tanks in the state.

DEP estimates tens of thousands of tanks will be affected by the law. Some exemptions exist based on capacity, use and overlapping regulation, among other reasons.

Flickr / davidwilson1949

West Virginia lawmakers will study 76 wide-ranging topics in committee meetings that lead up to their annual legislative session in January.

This year's interim committee topics include a study on the craft beer business, possible commuter rail service and a possible tax break for coal producers selling to in-state buyers who increase their purchases.

They will also delve into contamination issues with water supplies and feasibility of toughening campaign finance disclosure requirements.

An independent research group suggests sampling water in 720 West Virginia homes for a chemical that spilled into the water supply in January.

Researchers from the West Virginia Testing Assessment Project, or WV TAP, say that number of homes would be "statistically defensible" in determining whether affected households are chemical-free.

The group sampled 10 homes in February for crude MCHM using state taxpayer dollars. Each contained chemical traces, but the concentrations were about 675 times weaker than what federal officials call safe to drink. The report says levels of the chemical have continued to decline since the spill.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A Shepherdstown-based company looks to diversify West Virginia's economy by focusing on solar energy. The Monongahela National Forest gets a new federal designation to help combat insects and disease. Also, a Brooklyn, New York-based theatre company will soon brings a production to Charleston with hopes to open the public's eyes after the Elk River Chemical Spill.

Liz McCormick

Theater has often been a means to convey a particular message. Since ancient times, it has been used to teach lessons, understand important events, tell stories, and provide entertainment for its audience, and one company comes to Charleston this summer to start a dialogue with West Virginia…about water.

Freedom Industries
Aaron Payne / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A judge won't let the West Virginia company at the center of a January chemical spill reimburse its legal team for sending multiple lawyers to hearings or for travel costs.

Freedom Industries

A bankruptcy judge has initially approved plans for the company at the center of a January chemical spill to demolish its storage tanks.

Department of Environmental Protection, DEP
Department of Environmental Protection

Members of the public now have full access to comments collected by the state Department of Environmental Protection on a newly passed law. That law requires the DEP to create a regulatory program for above ground storage tanks in order to protect the state’s water.

Flickr / davidwilson1949

A Capitol police officer is appealing his firing over a post he made on Facebook.

The Public Employees Grievance Board has scheduled a grievance hearing for Douglas Day on June 10.

The Charleston Gazette reports that Day was fired on Feb. 6. Three days earlier, he wrote a Facebook post about a protest at the Capitol over the state's response to a Jan. 9 chemical spill.

Freedom Industries

In a letter to Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito, federal health officials say they thought their drinking water standard established after the Elk River chemical spill would have protected West Virginias from other forms of contact. 

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official says drinking the contaminated water was the primary exposure they were concerned with when forming their safety threshold. CDC director Thomas Frieden says consumption was associated with the most significant health effects.

West Virginia American Water
Foo Conner / Flickr

  The state Public Service Commission has ordered an investigation into West Virginia American Water's response to the Jan. 9 chemical spill in Charleston.

The PSC said Wednesday the focus of its investigation will be on whether the company's reaction to the spill and presence of the coal-cleaning agent MCHM was "unreasonable or inadequate."

Among other things, the PSC has ordered the company to provide an account of actions it took starting when it became aware of the Jan. 9 spill at the Freedom Industries plant along the Elk River.

Aaron Payne / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

  Federal officials have denied Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's appeal seeking a major disaster declaration for a January chemical spill that contaminated the water supply in nine counties.

Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Craig Fugate says in a letter to Tomblin that a review affirmed the agency's earlier decision to deny Tomblin's request for a declaration. The letter says the event doesn't meet the legal definition of a major disaster.

As Dave Boucher of The Charleston Daily Mail reports, MCHM--the same chemical involved in a January spill that tainted the water supply of some 300,000 West Virginians--has been found in discharges from three coal prep plants in the state: Delbarton Mining in Mingo County, Wolfrun Mining in Barbour County, and Marfork Coal near the border of Boone and Raleigh counties.

Freedom Industries
Aaron Payne / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A bankruptcy judge is expected to approve Freedom Industries' request to sell its Poca Blending facility unless a better bid is submitted by Friday afternoon.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Ronald Pearson found the proposed buyer, Lexycon LLC, doesn't have any connection to Freedom or its former controlling officers. Pearson also said the sale's terms and conditions, and the negotiations, weren't inappropriate.

Freedom Industries
Aaron Payne / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

 The company at the center of a January chemical spill in West Virginia is returning to bankruptcy court.

Several motions by Freedom Industries will be heard Tuesday afternoon at the federal courthouse in Charleston.

The company responsible for the chemical leak has asked a judge for approval to pay $1.9 million for work completed by various lawyers and consultants. A subsequent court filing proposes ways to reduce those costs.