CREDIT: AP Photo/Steve Helber
The company responsible for letting 10,000 gallons of a mysterious chemical seep into West Virginia’s water this past January experienced another spill at its site on Thursday, this time from an overflowing trench of potentially contaminated stormwater, according to state officials.
Inspectors from the state Department of Environmental Protection noticed water overflowing into the Elk River from a containment trench at Freedom Industries’ site in Kanawha County on Thursday night at 5 p.m — the same site that leaked into the river in January, poisoning the drinking water supply for approximately 300,000 people. A sump pump that was supposed to send overflow to a storage tank had stopped working, inspectors said.
As of early Friday, the overflow had stopped, and a spokesperson for West Virginia American Water assured that initial tests showed no detection of crude MCHM, the mysterious coal-cleaning chemical that spilled at the site on Jan. 9. The chemical has a distinct licorice smell, but state DEP inspectors said there were no odors reported coming from the site. WOWK reporter Jessie Shafer, who visited the site in the hours after the spill, said otherwise.
“No odors reported at site today by public, but we were there. We smelled it clearly,” she tweeted.
The new spill happened on the same day that West Virginia American Water announced that all 16 carbon filters at its water treatment plant had been replaced, showing no more trace amounts of crude MCHM lingering from the initial spill. Six months after the initial spill, many West Virginia residents were still not drinking their water for fear of continued contamination.
The company responsible for the contamination, Freedom Industries, is currently going through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy spurred by the events of the January spill. The bankruptcy shielded it from lawsuits, and since then the company has been increasingly opaque — essentially only breaking its silence to revise spill numbers and admit that more than one chemical had actually spilled.