Elk River Chemical Spill

Freedom Industries
Aaron Payne / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

  The company at the center of West Virginia's chemical spill says costs of $1.9 million accumulated since the January leak "appear to be large," but are justified. Freedom Industries Chief Restructuring Officer Mark Welch wrote in bankruptcy filings that despite the price tag, the court should let Freedom make the payments through March 31 for contractors. The costs include environmental cleanup, legal fees, consulting and more.

water faucet

A study of hospital records in the nine counties affected by the Elk River Chemical Spill show that 369 people sought treatment at emergency rooms for certain symptoms, but health officials are reluctant to point to MCHM as the cause of the illnesses.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Loretta Haddy said the most common symptoms where nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, skin rash and itching, headache, sore throat and cough.

Freedom Industries

With little known about the chemical compound MCHM, public health was—and remains—the focus of January’s spill of MCHM by Freedom Industries into the Elk River. Dr. Rahul Gupta of the Kanawha Charleston Health Department and other public health officials gathered Tuesday for an online presentation hosted by the National Association of County and City Health Officials to detail past and on-going efforts.

Gupta began his portion of the webinar to outline the timeline of the spill before moving on to data collected on the event. He said a recent survey shows that, while some residents were using the water to do laundry or for other purposes, many of those affected weren’t drinking the water at the beginning of March.

Elk River Chemical spill
wikimedia / Wikimedia

When federal officials decided what chemical levels West Virginians could safely consume in water tainted by the January 9 spill at Freedom Industries, their standard assumed people would be exposed for two weeks, not 100-plus days.

Freedom Industries
Aaron Payne / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

West Virginia is expanding its tourism funding in hopes of offsetting negative publicity from the January chemical spill in the Elk River that spurred a water-use ban for days.

West Virginia Public Broadcasting's Ashton Marra and The New Yorker's Evan Osnos spoke with Judy Woodruff of the PBS NewsHour about January's Elk River chemical spill. Both Marra and Osnos field questions about whether or not the spill has changed the paradigm in relation to the politics of industry in the state and whether or not recently passed legislation will prevent a similar event in the future.

A West Virginia homeland security official thinks responders for a Jan. 9 chemical spill into the water supply could receive $2 million in federal help.
Homeland security official Greg Myers says the estimate covers state and local agencies, and select nonprofits, like volunteer fire departments. He says the total could grow.

Foo Conner / Flickr

West Virginia American Water said new tests show no signs of MCHM from water filtered through two newly replaced carbon filters.

The company began changing out the 16 activated carbon filters in the Charleston plant on April 1.

In a release this Monday, WVAM said 16 water samples taken throughout the filtration process at that location returned non-detect levels of MCHM.

The results came from Eurofins Lancaster Laboratories, Inc. in Lancaster, Pa., which WVAM said is testing the water at the 0.38 parts per billion level.

@chemsafetyboard / Twitter

Freedom Industries has submitted its remediation plan to the state Department of Environmental Protection to address environmental conditions at the company’s Charleston storage tank facility. The facility was the site of the Jan. 9 chemical spill of MCHM and PPH into the Elk River. 

The site remediation plan was developed by Civil & Environmental Consultants, a Pennsylvania-based firm also responsible for Freedom's tank decommissioning plan submitted to the DEP in March. It includes a summary of water quality sampling and remedial measures Freedom Industries has already implemented at the spill site.

Freedom Industries

Wastewater containing a chemical that spilled into the water supply for 300,000 West Virginians is heading to Ohio and North Carolina.
State Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Kelley Gillenwater says Freedom Industries started sending wastewater to an Ohio underground injection control well site this week.
The material was vacuumed out of Freedom's tanks and the Elk River. Freedom was storing it at its Nitro facility.

Federal officials have approved a funding request by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin related to the January chemical spill in Charleston.
But Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Craig Fugate refused to consider the event a "major disaster."

Freedom Industries

Federal investigators will start cutting up tanks for evidence at the site of the chemical spill that tainted the drinking water supply in nine West Virginia counties.

Chemical Safety Board spokeswoman Hillary Cohen says on April 24 the agency plans to begin removing parts of three Freedom Industries tanks. Each contained the same coal-cleaning chemicals, crude MCHM and PPH.

Kanawha Charleston Health Department

The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department plans to join the city of Charleston in suing over a Jan. 9 chemical spill that contaminated 300,000 West Virginians' water supply.
County Health Department board members voted Tuesday to partner on the lawsuit. The city hasn't filed anything yet.

In January, West Virginia’s Elk River was contaminated by a chemical spill from a nearby coal processing plant, affecting 300,000 local residents. People were without water for days. Now months later, is the water safe to drink? 

Freedom Industries
Aaron Payne / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

An attorney says the president of a company that spilled chemicals into 300,000 West Virginians' water supply "bears no fault" for the incident.
Gary Southern of Freedom Industries on Friday withdrew an application to get paid for work already completed during bankruptcy proceedings. He wanted Freedom and its insurance to cover his legal fees.

Although it’s only the first step in a long road on Capitol Hill, Senator Joe Manchin’s Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act was passed unanimously by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Thursday.

 “He knows full well what happens when a community is upended because some kind of chemical gets into the drinking water supply and he went to work,” said Committee Chair Sen. Barbara Boxer of Calif.

Four years after 29 miners were killed in an explosion at a Raleigh County mine, Upper Big Branch miners' family members and friends discuss what it takes to change a culture focused on production to one with an emphasis on safety. Sen. Joe Manchin's Chemical Safety and Drinking Water Protection Act unanimously passes its first stop on a long road on Capitol Hill, and Todd Snider performs "Stomp and Holler" on the Mountain Stage Song of the Week.

As Andrea Lannom of the The Charleston Daily Mail reports, Freedom Industries--the company embroiled in bankruptcy proceedings following January's Elk River chemical spill--made more money in February than they anticipated.

Surveys soon to be conducted by local, state, and federal officials will gather data on public health and concerns following the January 9 spill by Freedom Industries into the Elk River.

The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department will hold phone survey and the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) will conduct a door-to-door questionnaire.

Linda Wertheimer talks to Evan Osnos about his New Yorker piece in which he explores how the coal industry has become a political player in the state, and what that could mean for future regulation.