Elk River Chemical Spill

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The status of fish populations on West Virginia’s Elk River remain in limbo following a chemical spill in January. The spill occurred on January 9, 2014, at Freedom Industries Etowah River Terminal near Charleston, West Virginia.

The disaster began when a storage tank leaked an unknown quantity of 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol into secondary containment. A portion of that material escaped secondary containment and reached the Elk River, according to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Water and Waste Management (DWWM).

An investigation was initiated by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Division of Air Quality that morning following citizen complaints of objectionable odors near and downriver from Freedom Industries’ Etowah River Terminal. At 11:10 a.m., DAQ personnel discovered the source of these odors was from a leaking Crude MCHM tank and that no spill containment measures had been initiated. The crew also observed that an accumulated pool of MCHM was seeping through a containment dike.

The release occurred approximately 1.5 miles upstream from the intake of the local public water supply, creating odors in the vicinity and a sheen on the surface of the water.

Within hours of the spill, numerous media sources began reporting a massive contamination of the water supply for much of the surrounding area.

On January 10, DWWM issued an order requiring Freedom Industries Inc. to remove the contents in 11 remaining above-ground storage tanks at its Etowah Terminal in Charleston. The contents of three other tanks, including the one that leaked on Jan. 9, were removed prior to the order, according to a DWWM press release.

source: West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection