Feds Investigating WV Chemical Spill

Thursday, February 6, 2014 @ 05:02 PM gHale


A federal grand jury investigation will look at the West Virginia chemical spill that left 300,000 people unable to use their water supply.

Subpoenas went out requiring testimony for what one federal official confirms is a criminal investigation, according to a report on CNN.

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Meanwhile, an independent water test conducted found trace levels of the chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, or MCHM, remain in untreated river water and tap water from two homes in Charleston.

The results by TestAmerica found the chemical is within the safe level of 1 part per million set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The test result detected MCHM in the river at .42 parts per billion; residence #1 at 1.5 parts per billion; and residence #2 at 1.6 parts per billion. The amounts in the residences are more than double that found in the river, but still considered a “trace” amount and within safe limits as set by the CDC.

According to a source familiar with the probe, the grand jury investigation has been under way since just after the spill at the Freedom Industries chemical storage facility on the Elk River in Charleston. The spill came to light in early January.

On January 9, more than 7,000 gallons of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol leaked into Charleston’s water supply from a Freedom Industries storage tank. The result was a do-not-use order that left about 300,000 people in the area unable to drink or bathe in their water, some for more than a week.

Freedom Industries later told regulators that in addition to the methanol compound that escaped from a ruptured tank, a second chemical, a mix of polyglycol ethers, known as PPH, was part of the leak.

PPH does not pose any new health hazard for the people of Charleston, the CDC said. But the state environmental agency said failing to accurately report the makeup of the leak is a violation of state law.

The CDC said no one knows much about the health hazards of PPH, but it appears to be less toxic than MCHM and consists of about 5 percent of the total volume of the leaking tank.

The chemical see use to wash coal before it goes to market to reduce ash. Exposure to it can cause vomiting, dizziness, headaches, diarrhea and irritated skin, among other symptoms, the American Association of Poison Control Centers said.



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