WV Chemical Cleanup Timeline OK’d

Thursday, April 2, 2015 @ 01:04 PM gHale

Bankrupt Freedom Industries received approval Monday on deadlines for the company’s proposal to reclaim the site of the January 2014 chemical spill through a special West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) “voluntary” cleanup program.

The 16-page deal, called a “Voluntary Remediation Agreement,” spells out a series of reports and work Freedom must do and sets a timeline under which final remediation — the details of which are not set — should wrap up in the second quarter of 2016.

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Officials from DEP signed the agreement on Friday and sent it to Freedom Industries on Monday evening, the deadline for the agency and company to reach terms.

“We look forward to your continued participation in the program, with the common goal of securing certification of completion for the site,” Dave Long, a project manager at DEP’s Office of Environmental Remediation, wrote in a Monday letter to Mark Welch, Freedom’s chief restructuring officer. “In this manner, the property will remain in productive and protective use for the citizens of our state.”

Freedom officials have been looking for months to get into the DEP program as a way to avoid a more stringent cleanup standard — requiring removal of “all” contamination at the site —imposed by the initial enforcement orders state inspectors issued after Freedom spilled thousands of gallons of MCHM and other chemicals into the Elk just upstream from the region’s drinking water intake.

“Under the agreement, the Freedom restructuring team and environmental consultants will work with the DEP to identify human health and ecological risks associated with potential future uses of the site, establish applicable remediation standards, and ensure that those standards are maintained,” the DEP said.

Unlike other contaminants the DEP program frequently deals with, there is no established cleanup standard for Crude MCHM, the main chemical spilled into the Elk by Freedom in an incident that contaminated drinking water supplies for 300,000 residents in the Kanawha Valley and surrounding communities.

So, the agreement between Freedom and the DEP said a cleanup standard for the site would end up determined based on a series of site assessments, work plans, and risk assessments scheduled for filing with state officials over the next year. baseline human health and ecological risk assessment” work plan is due in the third quarter of 2015, and the assessment itself by the fourth quarter of 2015. A work plan on remaining remediation work is due in the first quarter of 2016 and a final “remedial action completion report” due in the second quarter of 2016.

Welch said work on the project is already far along, and that he hopes to beat the deadlines included in the DEP agreement and complete the cleanup within about six months.

“That timeline doesn’t mean anything to me,” Welch said of the dates spelled out in the agreement with DEP. “A lot of the work has already been accomplished

Under the agreement, Freedom has until April 30 to submit a report on its initial investigation of the site and on cleanup measures taken so far. A work plan outlining additional remediation planned is due May 30, and a supplemental site investigation report by the third quarter of 2015.

DEP spokeswoman Kelley Gillenwater said agency officials couldn’t “speculate about whether the work already conducted” would allow Freedom to beat the deadlines in the agreement with DEP “because we haven’t yet seen or had a chance to review the data from that work.”

The DEP-Freedom agreement comes about a week before U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Ronald Pearson April 8 hearing to decide if Freedom can complete a reorganization and liquidation under its current Chapter 11 proceeding, or if the company could end up forced into some other process.

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