Investigators from the Chemical Safety Board, led by Supervisory Investigator Lead Johnnie Banks, are on site at Freedom Industries in Charleston, W.Va., to investigate the leak of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM) that contaminated the Elk River.
According to local authorities the leak, of unknown quantity, has left hundreds of thousands of West Virginia residents without clean drinking water. As a result, schools and businesses in a multi-county area are closed.
“This incident continues to impact the people of West Virginia – our goal is to find out what happened to allow a leak of such magnitude to occur and to ensure that the proper safeguards are in place to prevent a similar incident from occurring,” said CSB Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso.
Freedom Industries Ordered to Empty Remaining Tanks
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Water and Waste Management (DWWM) is requiring Freedom Industries to empty the 11 remaining above-ground storage tanks at its Etowah Terminal in Charleston.
The contents of three other tanks, including the one that leaked on Jan. 9, already have been removed and relocated to another facility. Those three tanks contained 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol (MCHM).
The WVDEP’s DWWM issued a Cease Operations Order to Freedom Industries on Jan. 10. The agency’s Division of Air Quality also issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) to Freedom for causing statutory air pollution by discharging MCHM into the air. Both of those orders still are in effect.
According to the order issued Jan. 10, Freedom Industries must remove all material from all above-ground storage tanks and store the material in an off-site area that provides adequate secondary containment. Freedom Industries also must submit for approval an appropriate plan of corrective action, which at a minimum shall include, among other things, a detailed plan to appropriately implement a remediation of all contaminated soil and groundwater and create a plan for the ultimate disposition of the products stored in these tanks.
The Etowah Terminal was the site of a Jan. 9 spill during which a tank leaked an unknown quantity of MCHM into secondary containment. A portion of that material escaped secondary containment and reached the Elk River.
During the course of the investigation by WVDEP, the investigators noted that in addition to the three above-ground storage tanks containing MCHM, 11 additional tanks were reported inside the same failed secondary containment area in which the MCHM leaked. The other materials being stored in the additional tanks include calcium chloride and glycerin.