U.S. Attorney, federal investigators at Freedom Industry site - WBOY - Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

U.S. Attorney, federal investigators at Freedom Industries site

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Federal investigators examining storage tanks at Freedom Industries site. Federal investigators examining storage tanks at Freedom Industries site.
Federal investigators examining storage tanks at Freedom Industries site. Federal investigators examining storage tanks at Freedom Industries site.

The FBI's hazardous materials response team visited a spill site Tuesday to figure out how 10,000 gallons of chemicals contaminated the Elk River Jan. 9.

A team consisting of fifteen to twenty federal prosecutors, investigators, and inspectors combed through Freedom Industries, the tank farm facility where the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection located a massive chemical leak nearly three weeks ago.

"We're simply here to get a handle on the integrity of the tank, what more evidence we may need," said U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin. "We want to do it and do it safely."

The smell of black licorice, the infamous odor associated with crude MCHM, remained in the air Tuesday morning.

(BACKGROUND: FREEDOM INDUSTRIES: Closer to 10k gallons of chemicals leaked)

Goodwin said they are not currently seizing evidence, but the team will get inside the compromised tank to examine an inch-sized hole from where the chemicals reportedly leaked. Investigators will also take pictures and video of the evidence.

"We're not making any pre-judgments here," Goodwin said. "That's what an investigation is for and that's why we're conducting an investigation and doing it as thoroughly as we possibly can."

(Gov. Tomblin orders Freedom Industries to dismantle, remove above ground storage tanks)

Freedom Industries revised its spill estimates Monday to 10,000 gallons. Early estimates put the number at 7,500 gallons. The company also informed the WVDEP Jan. 21. that PPH, a second chemical, had escaped the compromised tank.

Goodwin had previously announced his office is conducting a criminal investigation into Freedom Industries.

"Even a negligent release of a pollutant into a navigable waterway, especially a waterway that's upstream from a water intake, that could give rise to criminal charges, that could give rise to my office's involvement," Goodwin said.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin ordered Freedom Industries Jan. 24 to start dismantling, removing and properly disposing of all of its above-ground storage tanks, as well as associated piping and machinery, at the Barlow Drive facility by March 15.

According to a news release, all three tanks that included the same chemicals that leaked into the Elk River are empty, and the materials in the remaining 14 tanks at the Etowah site include Calcium Chloride and Glycerin.

The news release also states all 17 tanks are located within inadequate secondary containment areas, which allowed materials to spill into the Elk River.

Tomblin is ordering Freedom Industries, on or before March 15, 2014, to remove all materials from the remaining 14 tanks at the Elk River facility and store the materials off-site in an area which provides adequate secondary containment.

Freedom Industries received orders from the DEP Jan. 10 to remove the contents of its Etowah Terminal tanks, and the company relocated the tanks' contents to its Poca facility. The DEP issued five notices of violations for that facility Jan. 15. Read more about the violations HERE.

Tomblin's order also requires Freedom Industries to provide the WVDEP with reports detailing the disposition of the materials removed from the tanks.

WVDEP spokesperson Tom Aluise has said WVDEP officials have monitored the Barlow Drive facility 24/7 to monitor the "remediation" process of containing the spill and re-routing the crude MCHM. Goodwin said Tuesday the FBI's team waited until after remediation was underway to fully launch into their investigation.

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