Freedom Industries, the company responsible for the recent chemical spill in West Virginia, has had its hands full with not just the cleanup, but with the resulting backlash from angry West Virginians and authorities. Here is some information about Freedom Industries and its handling of the spill.
On its website, Freedom Industries says it was founded in 1986 and has two production facilities. The Etowah River Terminal, where the leak occurred, can store 4 million gallons worth of chemicals. According to WOWKTV, Freedom bought the property in December.
The website says it is a “full service producer of specialty chemicals for the mining, steel, and cement industries [and] a leading producer of freeze conditioning agents, dust control palliatives, flotation reagents, water treatment polymers and other specialty chemicals.” The leaked chemical, 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM), is used in a coal cleaning process.
Kanwaha County Commission President Kent Carper said yesterday that a containment wall meant to prevent chemicals from reaching soil at Freedom Industries was in need of $1 million in repairs, but was never fixed.
Carper said county officials have requested the U.S. Chemical Safety Board and Environmental Protection Agency investigate the spill.
According to NBC, who spoke to the state Department of Environmental Protection, Freedom Industries is exempt from DEP inspection because it only stores chemicals and does not produce them, despite the Freedom Industries' claiming on its website that it is producer. Whether the Etowah River Terminal facility does produce chemicals or is only a storage facility is unclear.
The West Virginia Gazette reports that the spill was discovered by Department of Environmental Protection air-quality officials after they received complaints of an odor around the facility. Freedom Industries did not report the spill to regulatory agencies, but company president Gary Southern said it was unaware of the leak by 10:30 a.m. on Jan 9.
The DEP has ordered Freedom Industries to move its coal processing chemicals to a safer site. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has responded by saying he will work on tightening regulation on chemical storage facilities.
Many residents are frustrated with both Freedom Industries and West Virginia American Water, who owns the treatment plant where the MCHM made its way into the water supply. On Friday, one angry resident threatened that he was “on his way to teach everyone [at Freedom Industries] a lesson.”
The spill reportedly originated from a 35,000-gallon storage tank along the Elk River. From there, MCHM made its way through the soil and into the river. The chemicals then rode the river down to the West Virginia American Water-owned Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant, where the chemicals saturated a special filter system and flowed into the water supply.