Chemical Company Spill Cited at 2nd Site
14 January 2014
CHARLESTON — The company responsible for the chemical spill in
West Virginia moved its chemicals to a nearby plant that has
already been cited for safety violations, including a backup
containment wall with holes in it.
As a result, state officials may force the company to move the
chemicals to a third site.
Inspectors on Monday found five safety violations at Freedom
Industries’ storage facility in Nitro, about 10 miles from the
spill site in Charleston. The spill contaminated the drinking
water for 300,000 people, and about half of them were still
waiting for officials to lift the ban on tap water.
The West Virginia Bureau for Public Health issued a statement
Wednesday evening advising pregnant women not to drink the water
“until there are no longer detectable levels” of
4-methylcyclohexane methanol, a chemical used in coal processing.
The statement said it was making the recommendation “out of an
abundance of caution” after consulting with the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention.
The Department of Environmental Protection on Friday ordered
Freedom Industries to move all of its chemicals to the Nitro site.
According to a report from the department, inspectors found that,
like the Charleston facility, the Nitro site’s last-resort
containment wall had holes in it. The report described the site’s
wall as “deteriorated or nonexistent.”
Freedom Industries said the building’s walls acted as a secondary
containment dike, but state inspectors disagreed. The walls had
holes in them near the ground level, and they led out to a
stormwater trench surrounding the structure’s exterior, the report
Department spokesman Tom Aluise said the ditch eventually drains
into the Kanawha River. The Nitro facility isn’t on a riverbank,
like the other facili t y.
The facility had no documentation of inspections of the Nitro
site. Nor did it have proof of employee training in the past 10
years, the report said.
Aluise said the state could force Freedom to move the chemicals to
a third site, or build secondary containment structures at the
Nitro facility. He said the department would issue an
administrative order Thursday morning detailing what corrective
action will be required. Asked what possible penalties would be
brought against the company, Aluise responded in an email: “Yet to
The report only specified that Freedom Industries has 20 days to
provide a written response detailing corrective action.
Members of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s administration said they were
aware of no problems with the Nitro facility during a Tuesday
evening press briefing, even though the violations were discovered
during an inspection Monday.