Freedom Industries Plans Site Cleanup

Charleston Gazette
14 April 2014
By Eric Eyre, Staff writer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Freedom Industries, the company whose chemical storage tank leak made water unusable for 300,000 people in West Virginia, says it won’t know exactly how to clean up contaminated soil and groundwater at its Elk River facility until all storage tanks are torn down and removed from the site.

On Monday, Freedom submitted a 37-page “remediation plan” to the state Department of Environmental Protection. The report — prepared for Freedom by Pennsylvania-based Civil & Environmental Consultants Inc. — spells out how the bankrupt company plans to clean up the site where the leak started.

The consultants said the cleanup plan is designed to “eliminate current and future threats to human health and the environment related to the MCHM [chemical] release.”

“The remediation plan submitted by Freedom Industries is another important step in making sure proper procedures are put into place to effectively address any public health and environmental issues at the spill site,” said Kelley Gillenwater, a DEP spokeswoman.

The report reveals that the chemicals that leaked from a storage tank on Jan. 9 flowed north into a culvert pipe and a cobble fill drainage area before pouring into the Elk River and the West Virginia American Water treatment plant. The cobble fill was designed to capture surface water before it enters the river.

“Most of the contamination is on the northern end,” Tom Aluise, a DEP spokesman, said.

The report also discloses water sampling test results at the site. The highest concentrations of MCHM were detected at a collection pond built shortly after the leak to prevent even more of the chemical from getting into the Elk River.

The consultants found small concentrations of MCHM and PPH in groundwater monitoring wells installed after the spill. They also noted that “a small amount of product sheen on the Elk River adjacent to the river bank” was spotted after a “rain event.”

“This product was contained within booms and collected for proper disposal,” the report states.

Freedom’s consultants describe the cleanup plan as “preliminary” and “presumptive,” saying the plan could change once 11 storage tanks are dismantled and removed.

“Much information will be determined once the tanks are removed from the release area and the site characterization can be completed,” the consultant wrote in the report. “The ultimate disposition of wastewater generated onsite is likely to impact the final remedial option selected.”

The company plans to hire a contractor to remove the storage tanks, along with piping and machinery and other equipment at the facility.

A vacuum truck will suck up any contaminated soil under the tanks after they’re removed, according to the report.

Freedom will submit a final “remedial investigative report” after its consultants identify the “extent to environmental impacts” at the site,” according to a DEP news release.
“The WVDEP will work closely with Freedom Industries officials and environmental contractors to ensure the remediation plan and any subsequent changes to the plan are carried out in a manner that is protective of the environment,” Gillenwater said.

Also Monday, West Virginia American Water officials said water that passed through two new carbon filters at its Charleston water treatment plant “showed no detection of MCHM.”

The company started changing out its 16 activated-carbon filters on April 1. The filter replacement project is expected to take about two months.

West Virginia American Water said the recent testing included 16 water samples from “various stages of the water treatment process.” Eight of the water samples passed through the new filters, the company said.

Reach Eric Eyre at or 304-348-4869.

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