Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

January 28, 2014

Company increases chemical leak estimate in W.Va.


Associated Press

CHARLESTON (AP) — The company behind a chemical spill that contaminated the water supply of 300,000 people now estimates some 10,000 gallons of chemicals leaked, up from an earlier figure of 7,500 gallons, state regulators said Monday.

West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection released the new figure Monday from Freedom Industries regarding the scope of a Jan. 9 leak from a plant in Charleston. The agency emphasized it’s still unknown how much of the leaked chemical mix, including a coal-cleaning agent, actually spilled into the Elk River.

Residents in nine counties had to stop using tap water for days, except for flushing toilets.

DEP Secretary Randy Huffman said the revised estimate was in response to a previous order from the state agency about the quantity of chemicals released.

“We are not making any judgment about its accuracy,” Huffman said. “We felt it was important to provide to the public what the company has provided the WVDEP in writing. We are still reviewing the calculation and this is something that will be researched further during the course of this investigation.”

After the initial leak, Freedom Industries later said a second chemical was mixed with the coal-cleaning agent that spilled. The DEP said Freedom Industries indicates it has recovered about 1,272 gallons of the chemical mixture at the plant.

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Saturday ordered Freedom to remove all 17 of its above-ground storage tanks.

On Monday, Tomblin urged federal officials to change the state’s emergency declaration, which would provide funding for local and state entities that responded to the recent water shortage. The revised request would benefit state and local governments, first responders and nonprofits that offered water and other resources after the chemical spill.

Tomblin wrote to federal disaster officials that it cost state and local responders more than $2 million for their work. The state also is paying 25 percent of already approved federal assistance.

The governor also is requesting low-interest federal loans for businesses that lost money during the water-use ban.