UPDATE: Freedom Industries Submits Action Plan to Stop Future Spills

By: WSAZ News Staff
By: WSAZ News Staff
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UPDATE 6/14/14 @ 8:20 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- It's been over five months since the January 9th chemical spill, yet stores like Kroger in South Hills still swamped with customers wanting water.

Kristen Freiburger is one of many who used to trust the tap.

"Now I buy bottled water every time I'm at the store," said Freiburger. "It's really all I use."

Just when the credibility was finally coming back, Freedom Industries' second spill in as many days took it away.

"At this point I'm not even surprised," said Freiburger. "I don't even trust them to fix it."

While the Department of Environmental Protection let Freedom Industries off with two citations following Thursday's mishap, Friday's required action.

In addition to another violation notice, under the new punishment, Freedom was required to submit a plan to make sure an overflow never happens again.

In the write-up handed to the DEP Saturday, Freedom Industries says they will increase pumping during rain events, enhance the low spots of the trench, and add 24 hour staffing to monitor any runoff.

"Our division of water and waste management does have to approve the plan and of course we can ask for additional measures," said Kelley Gillenwater with the DEP.

West Virginia American Water has been continuing to test water for MCHM both from the river as well as from their plant, with all test so far coming back at non-detect.

However, for shoppers like Freiburger, that's water they'll still be staying away from.

UPDATE 6/14/14 @ 4:10 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- None of the chemical, MCHM has been detected after a second overflow of storm water at Freedom Industries.

West Virginia American Water took six samples or river and treated water at the plant at various times between 5:45 p.m. and 10:p.m. Friday.

This comes on the heels of the water crisis caused by 10,000 gallons of MCHM leaking from Freedom Industries back in January. It affected the tap water for about 300,000 people and caused businesses to close for days.

"Two back-to-back storm water overflows at the Freedom Industries site are completely unacceptable, and although water quality was not impacted, such events only serve to erode customer confidence in the water supply," said Jeff McIntyre, president of West Virginia American Water. "On behalf of our customers, we urge those managing this site to improve their containment system and take additional steps to prevent such incidents."

When notified about the second overflow by the DEP, Friday evening, WVAW consulted with the Bureau for Public Health and took precautions to protect and monitor the water quality.

WVAW officials say all water samples taken after both overflows showed no detection of MCHM.

UPDATE 6/13/14 @ 9:25 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Freedom Industries on Friday failed for a second straight day to prevent a stormwater collection trench overflow at the MCHM spill site along the Elk River, forcing the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) again to intervene, according to a news release from that agency.

“To have this happen twice in two days is outrageous and unacceptable," said DEP Secretary Randy Huffman in the release. "Freedom and its environmental consultant should have a system in place to handle heavy rainfall. If a better system is not implemented immediately, the DEP will take action to bring in a more responsible contractor to handle it."

Friday's overflow coincided with a heavy downpour of rain at around 5 p.m. The discharge lasted for approximately 50 minutes before being brought under control through increased pumping.

West Virginia American Water crews tested water samples twice Friday evening, company spokeswoman Laura Jordan said. As of 9 p.m. Friday, both of those tests had come back with non-detect levels of the chemical MCHM.

Jordan said the company will conduct more tests overnight and hopes to release those results early Saturday morning.

Friday's incident follows a similar overflow of stormwater discovered on Thursday. In that instance, the DEP determined a pump float level, meant to trip the device on, was not properly set. Two notices of violation were issued following that event: for allowing a discharge from an unpermitted outlet, and for failure to comply with the terms and conditions of an order to implement an approved sump management plan.

A mandate, which will include conditions about Friday's spill, will require that Freedom respond by noon Saturday with an outline of how the system will be redesigned to prevent future overflows.

The DEP inspector who discovered the latest discharge has relayed that the sump pump was operating, unlike yesterday's incident, but apparently could not keep up with the heavy flow of rainwater. A backup pump was activated to increase pumping capacity.

West Virginia American Water, which has a drinking water intake a mile and a half downstream, has been notified and will be collecting samples of raw water coming into the plant intake as well as treated water. Initial results are expected later tonight. Testing of raw and treated water samples after Thursday's discharge came back at non-detectable levels.

A 10,000-gallon crude MCHM leak at the site on Jan. 9 contaminated the drinking water of about 300,000 people. Construction of the trench was commenced that day so that rainwater and groundwater running across polluted soil at the site would not seep into the river.

UPDATE 6/13/14 @ 4:50 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Freedom Industries has been cited by the DEP for two violations after stormwater overflow into the Elk River.

According to the DEP, "one violation 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."

The violations are a result of stormwater overflow from a trench that spilled into the Elk River sometime on Thursday.

"We had an inspector at the Freedom spill site yesterday (Thursday) who was walking along the storm water collection trench and discovered there was water leaving that trench and trickling into the Elk River," DEP Spokesperson Kelley Gillenwater said.

The trench is used as a collection site to trap any liquids before they reach the river. When the trench is full, the stormwater is shipped off to waste water sites in Ohio and North Carolina.

DEP inspectors aren't sure just how much water spilled into the river. When an inspector noticed the spill, around 5 p.m. Thursday, they manually restarted the sump pump, stopping the overflow within minutes. Gillenwater said the pumps were intentionally stopped by an environmental consulting firm hired by Freedom Industries. She says while conducting experiments on the level of stormwater in the trench, the firm set the incorrect level, causing the overflow.

"That level was set too high and it's actually higher than the lowest level of the trench so what was happening, was the water was trickling out," Gillenwater said, adding they are still investigating if it would have been the responsibility of a Freedom Industries employee to watch for overflow.

The firm, along with DEP inspectors were on site to monitor clean-up and remediation following the Jan. 9 chemical spill, leaking more than 10,000 gallons of MCHM into the Elk River and contaminating the drinking water for more than 300,000 people.

WSAZ.com contacted Freedom Industries for a comment. A woman who answered the phone said, "It was just an overflow," before hanging up the phone.

UPDATE 6/13/14 @ 1:35 a.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A spokesperson with West Virginia American Water says initial test results showed no detection of MCHM at the company's Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant.

Concerns were raised after the West Virginia Department of Environment Protection said there was an overflow of a storm water collection trench at the Freedom Industries site.

West Virginia American Water says samples taken after treatment and water from the Elk River that had not yet been treated were both tested for MCHM, with no detection of the chemical in either.

The water company says it plans to continue testing overnight.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest on this story.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Another spill at the Freedom Industries site Thursday night caused what the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection described as "a small but undetermined amount of water" spilling into the Elk River.

However, the DEP said it wasn't clear yet clear whether the water that went into the river contained crude MCHM, the material that spilled at the site on January 9th and caused a water crisis for 300,000 people in West Virginia.

The DEP said one of its inspectors noticed water overflowing from a containment trench at the site about 5 p.m.

In a statement released Thursday night, the DEP reported that a sump pump in place to pump overflow to a storage tank at the site had stopped working and that the inspector restarted the pump, which stopped the overflow.

The DEP had inspectors at the Freedom Industries site Thursday night.

The agency said inspectors were taking samples of the water from the trench, as well as at the intake at West Virginia American Water Company’s treatment plant and of the treated water. Those samples will be tested at multiple labs, with results expected by Friday morning.

A WSAZ reporter did detect a small odor from the site.

DEP Inspectors have been at the site daily to monitor the cleanup work and the containment facilities.

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