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IN DEPTH: Dozens of Complaints to DEP Regarding Diversified Services

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Calls regarding complaints about the smell of the chemical MCHM in the area of Diversified Services started coming into the Department of Environmental Protection tip line on Jan. 14.

It was less than a week after a chemical spill at Freedom Industries contaminated the drinking water for 100,000 West Virginian American Water customers and an estimated 300,000 people overall.

Diversified Services is a company that helped Freedom Industries, the source of the chemical leak, clean up and transport MCHM to it's Nitro Facility.

Several callers reported a "licorice smell" in the air.

On Jan. 14, a team from the DEP went to Diversified Services' location in St. Albans and met with the company owner Dan Kessler.

Diversified Services is a company that helped Freedom Industries, the source of the chemical leak, clean up and transport MCHM to its Nitro Facility.

Trace smells of MCHM were noted. Clothing soaked in MCHM was also in the back of a vehicle. The clothing was bagged and sealed. The report also noted that no leaking was coming from any equipment.

Kessler told the crews that he suspected there was still some of the solution left in the tankers because the solution was skimmed off the Elk River site.

In the report, the inspector said that an objectionable odor problem did not exist in the vicinity at the time of the inspection.

During the next few weeks, about three dozen calls would come in regarding this smell.

In addition to the complaints about the smell, one caller reported an MCHM sighting in a ditch near the plant.

Another caller said that work was only being done at Diversified Services at night.

On Feb. 22, the same day a complaint came in to the tip line, the Division of Air Quality called to report that they found evidence of an air release.

During a visit to the site, a representative spoke with co-owner Liz Kessler. She told him that there was no chemical on sight or pumping or transferring happening.

The report states that the odor was most likely from material stuck to the tires of the trucks and the transfer hoses "which was more volatile than normal because of the warmer weather."

On Thursday, federal and state investigators hauled boxes and computers out of the offices of Diversified Services in St. Albans.

Several soil samples were taken Thursday night and during the day Friday.


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