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West Virginia Chemical Spill Even Worse Than Reported

Coal processing company Freedom Industries revises estimate to 10,000 gallons of Crude MCHM/PPH spilled into local water supply

- Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Members of the West Virginia National Guard tested water samples across the Kanawha Valley after 10,000 gallons of coal processing chemicals spilled into the local water supply.The amount of chemicals spilled from a West Virginia coal processing plant into the Elk River is even greater than previously reported, according to a statement issued by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection late Monday.

Freedom Industries has revised their estimate to approximately 10,000 gallons as the amount of Crude MCHM/PPH spilled on Jan. 9 into the local water supply, a mile and a half upstream from the intake pipes for the regional water utility, West Virginia American Waters.

"The number goes up and down, up and down, up and down. We don't know." —Mike Dorsey, W. Virginia DEP

Most recently reported at 7,500 gallons, the estimate was revised following an order by the DEP demanding Freedom Industries provide the methodology it was using to determine the quantity of the chemicals released.

However, the state still doesn’t know how much of the mixture of crude MCHM and PPH—a second chemical which just last week was revealed as being included the spill—seeped from storage tanks through old concrete walls meant to contain such leaks, the Charleston Daily Mail reports.

"The number goes up and down, up and down, up and down. We don't know," DEP official Mike Dorsey said on Jan. 22 when the amount leaked was being reported as 6,251 gallons.

"Yesterday it was less, today it's more. That's all I really know about that. And are either of those numbers real? I don't know."

Freedom Industries told the DEP it had 110,375 gallons of the two chemicals combined on Jan. 8 in three different tanks. After the spill the company moved the rest of the chemical to a location it owns in Nitro, called Poca Blending LLC, where it "measured" 100,233 gallons in six tanks.

“The difference between the value from the morning of Jan. 9 and the value from Jan. 21 is 10,142 gallons. We therefore estimate that approximately 10,000 gallons of MCHM/PPH blend was released the morning of Jan. 9,” Freedom Industries said in a response to the DEP order.

Reportedly, 1,272 gallons of the chemical mixture was collected by absorbent booms and other control devices at the spill site.

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