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Several new violations for Freedom Industries

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The company responsible for a chemical spill that left 300,000 West Virginians without safe tap water finally told the state what it plans to do with chemicals stored unsafely at a different location.

Freedom Industries will transfer the rest of the crude MCHM and contaminated water stored at its Poca Blending location in new, "double-walled Baker tanks," said Tom Aluise, state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman.

Baker tanks are large, wheeled tanks typically used to store fracking waste, DEP Secretary Randy Huffman has said.

Freedom is currently storing the chemical and contaminated water from the spill site in single-walled tanks, and in an area with no ability to contain a leak in an emergency.

There were 15 tanks on the site Thursday morning: Five contained crude MCHM and the other 10 held the contaminated water, Aluise said.

There are also four tanker trucks filled with contaminated water. Alusie said they would be emptied and put in the new Baker tanks, which meet the DEP parameters for sufficient secondary containment.

The new tanks were supposed to arrive at the Poca Blending site Thursday evening, Aluise said. Freedom has until Jan. 23 to finish transferring the chemicals and water from the current tanks to the new ones, Aluise said.

Freedom failed to notify the DEP of these changes by a 4 p.m. deadline Thursday, one of several new violations by the company.

The DEP discovered Freedom was trying to separate the contaminated water from the chemical using a heating process, having never provided the state with any plan about the process.

"For the material that is a mixture of water and MCHM (mostly water), they were using a heating process to separate the water from the MCHM," Aluise said.

"We ordered them to stop until they provided more information about the process."

Aluise said they have stopped.

A message left with a woman who previously told the Daily Mail she represents Freedom was not returned.

The DEP issued five notices of violation Wednesday to Poca Blending, a company in Nitro owned and operated by Freedom. Freedom took the rest of the MCHM that was stored at its Elk River location, and contaminated water from that site, and stored it at the Poca Blending site.

After inspecting the Poca Blending site Monday, the DEP discovered the facility had no meaningful secondary containment. The plan for the property listed the walls of a building storing other chemicals as the barrier of last resort.

The crude MCHM and contaminated water aren't stored in that building, and there are holes in the walls, according to the DEP.

The other violations issued specifically to Poca Blending include failing to follow a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan and Groundwater Protection Plan and not providing discharge monitoring reports, as required by law.

Officials believe as much as 7,500 gallons leaked the morning of Jan. 9 out of a hole in a storage tank at Freedom's Elk River site. An unknown amount of the chemical seeped through an old concrete wall meant to stop any leaks and made its way into the river.

A treatment facility owned by West Virginia American Water Co. is about 1.5 miles downstream from the site of the leak. Company President Jeff McIntyre has said the facility's filtration system was overwhelmed by 4 p.m. the day of the leak, leading to a do-not-use advisory for more than 100,000 customers across nine counties.

The DEP does not regulate facilities that store chemicals: it only issues a permit if the facility makes or emits something.

Until Thursday DEP officials have said they never inspected either the Elk River or Poca Blending locations before the leak.

However, they released a slew of reports Thursday that show the state visited the site repeatedly over the past 25 years. State inspectors visited the site in at least 1990, 1991, 1999, twice in 2002, 2003 and 2010, according to the new information.

Reports for each of those visits provide details about the location's history of violations.

In 1990 the state discovered Pennzoil Products, owner of the site at the time, was out of compliance in eight categories. That includes failing to notify the state about its "hazardous waste activity" and not having a detailed emergency plan.

The site had diesel and oil in large containers. It was not immediately clear through those reports if they are the same containers involved in the recent spill.

While the 1991 inspection found no problems, a 1999 report describes several leaks and spills. Between 1988 and 1995 there were four leaks of gas, petroleum or diesel fuel, according to the report. The largest was 232 gallons of petroleum in 1995.

The inspections also give details about the site's ownership history.

Elk Refining Co. owned the site until 1968, when Petroleum Products took over. That company changed its name in 1999 to Pennzoil/Quaker State Products Co. after a merger.

The site was sold to Etowah River Terminal - now owned by Freedom - in 2002.

The DEP gave no reason as to why it couldn't find these inspection reports until now or whether there are any other reports that could be missing.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the tank that leaked might have been made in 1938. The DEP did not return a request for comment about the age of the tank.

Contact Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or david.boucher@daily

mailwv.com. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1.

 


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