Freedom Industries President Pressed for Answers at Conference

By: WSAZ News Staff; Michael Clouse Email
By: WSAZ News Staff; Michael Clouse Email
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A chemical spill that has led to a water ban for more than 100,000 West Virginia American Water customers in several West Virginia counties is "unfortunate and unanticipated," Freedom Industries President Gary Southern said during a news conference Friday evening.

"This incident is extremely unfortunate and unanticipated," Southern said. "We are very sorry for the disruption."

Southern, however, had few details about the nature of the leak or the quantity of 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol, or Crude MCHM, leaked. That is a chemical used in processing coal. Southern referred to it as a "low-toxicity product" that has no impact on aquatic life, including fish.

Southern said the product was stored in a 35,000-gallon steel tank, but he said he could not elaborate about how much of it actually leaked into the Elk River in Charleston. He said there are "theories" that extremely cold recent temperatures could have been a factor.

"I'm not in position to give you a number in terms of how much volume left," Southern said "We simply don't know yet."

He said on-site employees first noticed the leak about 10:30 a.m. Thursday. All of the chemical has been removed to an offsite location and vacuum trucks are removing any residual chemical from around the tank that leaked.

At one point during the press conference, Southern signaled that he was done talking and started to walk away, only to be brought back by reporters demanding more answers.

When asked what the minimum timeline was for the leak being cleaned up, Southern responded, "we will get back with you on that shortly." WSAZ is still waiting on the answer.

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