Energy & Environment

Former coal miner Joe Stanley says he lost his job after a conflict with management, when he, as union president, demanded to know more about the chemicals that were being used in the mine. "I watched the coal industry poison our water for years. Now they're telling us not to drink the water? We've been dumping this stuff into unlined ponds and into old mines for years," he says. One of those chemicals, Stanley says, was MCHM.

Foo Conner / Flickr

The Public Service Commission's Consumer Advocate Division wants the agency to continue requiring West Virginia American Water to submit quarterly reports on service quality.
 
A 2011 order issued by the PSC requires the company to submit the reports through the fourth quarter of 2013. The Consumer Advocate Division asked the PSC on Wednesday to continue the requirement until further notice.
 

A new report says West Virginians paid 1.2 percent more for utilities in 2013 than in the previous year, primarily because of increases in natural gas and water rates.  
 
     The report released Wednesday by the Public Service Commission's Consumer Advocate Division says the average West Virginia utility customer paid $280.62 a month for gas, electricity, water and telephone service last year. In 2012, the average monthly cost was $277.22.  
 

Office of the Governor

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin says he was unaware he received campaign checks from top executives at the company at the center of West Virginia's chemical spill.
 
     The Democrat said he found about donations from two Freedom Industries executives from news articles Wednesday morning.
 

Sen. Jay Rockefeller
Politico

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller has written to West Virginia American Water for a second time since the chemical leak at Freedom Industries January 9.

In a letter sent this morning he asked West Virginia American Water President Jeff McIntyre to respond by Friday, Jan. 24.

Rockefeller states he’s deeply concerned that after the “do not use” ban was lifted for people living in Buffalo, Fraziers Bottom and Pliny, further tests revealed levels of Crude MCHM higher than 1ppm.

Scott Finn / Twitter: @radiofinn

The President of Downstream Strategies is in Charleston presenting his organization’s report on the Elk River chemical spill to lawmakers. Meanwhile, lawmakers are debating a proposal from Gov. Tomblin. Hansen is concerned about some aspects of the bill.

West Virginia Legislature

A West Virginia Senate leader thinks the governor's proposal to prevent chemical spills caters to industry interests.
 

Senate Majority Leader John Unger says Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's bill doesn't do enough to register and inspect above-ground storage tanks.
 
     Tomblin's measure responds to Freedom Industries' Jan. 9 spill, which contaminated the water supply for 300,000 people.
 

C. W. Sigman

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection issued a new order to Freedom Industries Wednesday, less than a day after it was discovered another chemical--known as PPH--was included in the tank that leaked at the Freedom site.

According to the order, Freedom has until 4 p.m. Wednesday to provide the West Virginia DEP on-site inspector with information that fully describes the composition of materials released into the Elk River almost two weeks ago.

Freedom Industries
Aaron Payne / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Attorneys for the company behind West Virginia's chemical spill said in federal bankruptcy court Tuesday that they've secured a deal for up to $4 million in credit to continue operations.

Mark Freelander, an attorney for Freedom, released key details. He said the arrangement reached after an hours-long court hearing would allow Freedom Industries to continue paying its employees and top vendors and also provide funds to cover for environmental cleanup from a Jan. 9 chemical spill in the Elk River.

As Ken Ward of The Charleston Gazette reports, officials with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board say a product known as "PPH" was included in the the January 9 spill.

Morgantown Learning Lessons from Elk River Spill

Jan 21, 2014
Ashton Marra

The City of Morgantown’s water utility says it’s using the unfortunate chemical spill in Charleston as a learning opportunity. It is taking action to prevent problems should a similar situation happen in Morgantown. Of course, if the Governor has his way, the changes may not be optional.

Graphic Detailing the Elk River zone of critical concern, from downstream strategies new report.
Downstream Strategies

Downstream Strategies President Evan Hansen has worked on a report called "The Freedom Industries Spill: Lessons Learned and Needed Reforms." Hansen says new regulations on storage facilities, like the one involved in the Elk River spill, are only a first step towards prevention.

Hansen also suggests:

Freedom Industries
Aaron Payne / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

 

 

The company blamed for a chemical spill that left 300,000 West Virginians without safe drinking water has filed for bankruptcy.

Freedom Industries Inc. filed for bankruptcy Friday with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of West Virginia.

Company president Gary Southern signed the paperwork.

 The “do not use” order has been lifted for the last customer area in West Virginia American Water’s Kanawha Valley district. Customers in the Clendenin area may begin flushing according to the established guidelines. Although the online map currently reflects that all areas have  turned blue, customers should  keep in mind that precautionary boil water advisories are in place for several smaller groups of customers throughout the district after water storage tanks were depleted following excessive flushing activities.

The company that runs the facility that caused the chemical leak into the Elk River in Charleston, W.Va., has a new owner.

Freedom Industries
Aaron Payne / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The company whose spill contaminated the water supply for 300,000 West Virginians has been cited for violations at a second facility where it's storing chemicals.

Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Tom Aluise says inspectors found five violations Monday at a Nitro site, known as Poca Blending, LLC, where Freedom Industries moved its coal-cleaning chemicals after Thursday's spill.

“If it’s good enough to wash coal, it’s good enough to wash me.” That’s a tweet that supposedly went out from the West Virginia Coal Association in response to the Elk River chemical spill. No such remark exists on the association's feed today, but the sentiment sparked reactions from many, including one southern W.Va. health campaign. In the aftermath of the MCHM spill, they’re bringing up questions about certain coal mining practices.

Scott Finn / Twitter: @radiofinn

Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Randy Huffman says he and Gov. Tomblin are already having conversations about what possible legislation can be introduced following last week’s chemical spill.

Officials at Downstream Strategies in Morgantown say the Freedom Industries facility slipped through many gaps in the regulatory system. One of these gaps is that since the company wasn’t storing a petroleum product just a few miles from the water intake, it wasn’t subject to a lot of regulations and oversight that would have required stronger contingency plans, in case a spill happened, and much more frequent reporting.

"As a product, MCHM is not a hazardous substance. There's only very limited toxicology data on that, but it's not regulated as a hazardous substance itself, just a component of it is, which is methanol," said Marc Glass with Downstream Strategies.

"It's a mixture of several components."

  Glass,  says collaboration and cooperation between the utility company, along with the industry and even environmental regulators, must be much better.

He says there’s a framework, an assessment plan that was written in 2002, that could act as a tool to help all stakeholders work together better. It's a source water assessment program, that was actually written for the Elk River. This assessment is located here.

The 2002 assessment suggested, amongst other things, that a secondary source of water should be identified to help protect drinking water when incidents occur.

But Glass says regardless of what is done, it needs to happen soon, because incidents like this one could certainly happen at any time, if problems are neglected.

“It’s certainly a wake up call for what could have happened, and a good opportunity to take heed of just how critical access to clean water, how critical that is for our economy," Glass said.

"We always talk about the challenges of balancing the environment with the economy, but just look at what happens to the economy when we don't have the availability of good, clean water.
 

Scott Finn / Twitter: @radiofinn

West Virginia American Water began the long-awaited flushing process yesterday afternoon for residents who have been without water since Thursday.

Residents in the nine counties began the flushing process using an interactive online map. The chemical leak has left residents without the use of water since Thursday. Residents have been instructed to follow a detailed process once their area is in the blue zone on a map at amwater.com. Jeff McIntyre is President of West Virginia American Water. He said it’s a three-step process.

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

  The aftermath of last week's chemical spill continues. On this West Virginia Morning, we learn why the Department of Environmental Protection wasn't inspecting the storage tank. Also, an interview with WVU interim president E. Gordon Gee.

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