CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Under ideal conditions, it would take about 15 hours for 7,500 gallons of crude MCHM to flow out of a storage tank through a one-inch hole, the director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute said Thursday in an interview with the Daily Mail.
However, the hole was located at least partially underground, which would provide some resistance to the flow, thereby changing how quickly the MCHM was released from the tank, said Paul Ziemkiewicz, Ph.D., the institute's director.
He also said he heard reports of a licorice smell in the area a few days before the leak was found.
Ziemkiewicz provided similar information to state lawmakers on Friday.
The Water Research Institute is "a program of the National Research Center for Coal and Energy at West Virginia University" in Morgantown and supported by the U.S. Geological Survey.
The director said he wasn't sure if the hole was caused by corrosion or a puncture. However, on Thursday, an unnamed source told the Charleston Gazette the hole in the storage tank was caused by a pipe bursting during last week's severely cold temperatures.
Ziemkiewicz said researchers from the water institute are testing treated water throughout the West Virginia American Water system in the Kanawha Valley. They're also testing for MCHM in the Kanawha River at various points from Charleston to the end of the Kanawha at the Ohio River.
"We're trying to figure out how fast it disappeared in the river," he said.
The institute is also in the process of developing research proposals to analyze MCHM's acute (one-time) and chronic (recurring) effects on humans.
Ziemkiewicz said although he knows of other chemical leaks in the Ohio River water system, he can't think of an incident where a chemical was drawn into a drinking water system.
"This is the first time I've heard of a water system shut down because of a chemical spill," he said.