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WV DEP: 2 violations issued after Freedom Industries overflow, which could have been the result of human error

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The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection said Friday, June 13 human error could have resulted in the overflow of a trench at the Freedom Industries site.

The trench that was dug to take on rainwater at Freedom's Etowah Terminal site in Charleston after the Jan. 9 leak of crude MCHM from a storage tank and secondary containment, failed Jan. 12 creating a leak into the Elk River.

Gillenwater said the issue that arose with the plant's pump was how it was set to turn on should the trench overflow. She said the problem could have been cause by the fact that someone set the float on the pump at a higher level than it should have been set.

“Right away, we have demanded the pump be set at a lower level and there be more oversight and monitoring,” Gillenwater said. “We are evaluating our internal procedures as far as protocols go to see if we need to make any changes.”

Gillenwater said DEP officials are still working to determine how long water was leaking, and just how much came out.
The DEP also issued two notices of violation to Freedom Industries as a result of the overflow of the trench.

One of the violations is for allowing a discharge from an unpermitted outlet. The second is for failure to comply with the terms and conditions of a prior order to implement an approved sump management plan, according to DEP officials.

Click HERE to read more about the June 12 leak, which was noticed by DEP officials at about 5 p.m. that evening. The DEP alerted the media of the leak at about 10:15 p.m. Jan. 12.

“We have no way of determining how long the leak occurred,” Gillenwater said.

She said people are walking around monitoring the site on a daily basis, including DEP officials who would go there on a daily basis – sometimes more frequently.

“We don’t anticipate the leak lasted very long,” she said. “Despite the amount of time, what’s important in this case are the test results and as of this afternoon all results have come back at the non-detect level for MCHM.”

Before Jan. 9, there were no protocols or testing methodology for MCHM, but now the labs have the capability and are able to get the results back much more quickly, Gillenwater added.

All results that were taken near the West Virginia American Water plant came back at non-detect levels for crude MCHM.

“Any time you’re releasing information that has the potential to create panic, you want to make sure you know all the facts and have all of the information to explain exactly what happened, why it happened, and how,” Gillenwater said. “Our first call was to West Virginia American Water and that call was made within the hour.”

Gillenwater said the DEP also notified public health officials, state, local and county officials. However, Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, said he was not informed of the leak until 10 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 12.

“We feel do diligence was taken in gathering the information and making the necessary notifications,” Gillenwater said.

Samples taken from the trench indicated there was MCHM in the soil, however, 14 samples tested at two different labs came back at non-detect level for MCHM.

The sample taken from the trench had a detectable level of the chemical, testing at 2.78 part per million.
“We weren’t surprised that there were detectable levels of MCHM in the trench. That’s the reason the trench was constructed – to catch contaminated water before it reaches the river,” said Scott Mandirola, DEP Division of Water and Waste Management director. “The most important test results for us, however, are those showing non-detectable levels of MCHM in the river at the water plant intake. Those test results are the best indicator that there are no public health concerns related to this release.”