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LATEST: Freedom Industries responds to disclosure order

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Freedom Industries responded Jan. 22 to an order from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection requiring the company to disclose "any and all information fully describing the composition of the materials spilled into the Elk River on Jan. 9, 2014."

The statement from Freedom Industries was signed by its President, Gary Southern. The statement says the company's internal investigation indicates that immediately prior to the chemical release, Tank No. 396 contained a blend of Crude MCHM and PPH, a hydrophobic glycol ether, characterized in the Dow chemical Material Safety Data Sheet Dowanol PPH.

The statement goes on to explain that "after extensive calculation," Tank No. 396 contained approximately 88.5 percent Crude MCHM and 7.3 percent PPH by weight and 4.2 percent water by weight.

"Our records and internal investigations indicate that there were no other materials in Tank No. 396 at the time of release," the statement reads.


A second chemical was identified in a leak that recently contaminated the drinking water of nearly 300,000 West Virginians, according to Amy Shuler Goodwin, a spokeswoman for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

The chemical, known as "PPH," was held in the same container that was originally discovered leaking at Freedom Industries, a storage tank farm on the Elk River, Goodwin explained.

"It is absolutely absurd that we did not have this information from day one from this company," Goodwin said.

Mike Dorsey, an official with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, was informed of the presence of the second chemical the morning of Jan. 21. The president of Freedom Industries, Gary Southern, handed Dorsey a document that indicated the detection of PPH — a chemical typically used to make a liquid more fluid.  According to a release from the CDC, toxicological information on PPH is limited.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection announced Jan. 22 it ordered Freedom to disclose by 4 p.m. that same day, all the information that spilled from its terminal Jan. 9. The information is to be submitted to the WVDEP inspector already at the plant's site.

According to the DEP, failure to accurately report "the type or types and quantity or quantities of the material or materials therein" is a violation of state code.

"Having this revelation so late in the game is completely unacceptable," WVDEP Cabinet Secretary Randy Huffman said. "We have ordered Freedom to reveal any other information they have regarding the contents of the tank that leaked.

"Having to order them to provide such obvious information is indicative of the continued decline of their credibility."

If Freedom doesn't comply with this latest order, it could subject the company to additional enforcement actions within the law.

Dorsey estimates the container held approximately 300 gallons of PPH — about 5 percent of the tank's contents, Goodwin said. The container mostly stored crude MCHM, the chemical that contaminated the Elk River.

Reporters pressed WVDEP officials about why they didn't issue a similar order after the initial spill.

"We believed we were sure," Huffman said. "We believed we had MCHM back when we asked the question, 'What's in the tank?" Huffman.

The CDC posted an advisory on its website. It states the toxicity of PPH appears to be lower than the toxicity of MCHM, based on animal studies.

Health effects are widely unknown, but officials at the state level said the water should be safe to drink.

"Based upon what we know today, we don't think there's a concern," Huffman said.

Goodwin said as of the evening of Jan. 21, crews with the West Virginia National Guard were testing 20 water samples in the previously affected areas for PPH. As was the case for MCHM, the interagency team had to develop a new testing methodology for PPH.

"To say there is a distrust and concern of information that Freedom continues to provide is an understatement," she said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a release that says the toxicity of PPH "appears to be lower than the toxicity of MCHM."  According to the release, the amount of PPH is likely low but the water system has not been tested for PPH.  A review of the current information lead the CDC to believe no new health risks are posed by the chemical.

The CDC  says they will continue to wok with officials in West Virginia to find additional information.

Goodwin described at least three previous attempts when state officials tried contacting the CDC to learn more about the material, only to learn the agency was still compiling information.

"That is a challenge," Goodwin said.

The Material Safety Data Sheet identifies the second product as "PPH, stripped." Potential hazards associated with the chemical include "skin irritation and serious eye irritation," according to the sheet.

The chemical could also be harmful if swallowed. The MSDS stated the material "is not easily ignited, but will burn if heated sufficiently."

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said West Virginia American Water President Jeff McIntyre answered a letter asking for the company's next steps, which Rockefeller said McIntyre answered in a timely manner. Rockefeller asked Jan. 22 several more questions of McIntyre, including whether or not the company plans to aid the flushing process further, further information about any plans to replace the plant's carbon filters and any plans to treat the PPH that was in the water as well. Rockefeller asked for answers by Jan. 24.


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