Freedom Industries claims all leaked substances now disclosed
CHARLESTON, WV -- After being ordered by state regulators to disclose any additional chemicals that might have leaked from a storage tank and into the Elk River water supply, Freedom Industries officials told the state they believe only two chemicals were in the tank at the time of the spill.
"Our records and internal investigations indicate that there were no other materials in Tank No. 396 at the time of release," Freedom Industries President Gary Southern wrote in a letter to the state Department of Environmental Protection.
About 9:50 a.m. Tuesday, Southern pulled DEP official Mike Dorsey into an office to let him know another chemical was involved in the leak, Dorsey said Wednesday.
Huffman said Southern believed the company had stopped using the new chemical but learned this week it had not.
Freedom told the DEP Tuesday about 300 gallons of the new chemical, known as "PPH, stripped," was also in the leaky container with the crude MCHM.
Freedom's revelation 12 days after the leak spurred an order for more information from the DEP.
"Having to order them to provide such obvious information is indicative of the continued decline of their credibility," DEP Secretary Randy Huffman said in a press release Wednesday morning.
At a press conference Wednesday before Southern's letter was released, Huffman discussed why the DEP didn't know what chemicals were stored in the tank until Tuesday.
"On the day of the spill, we believed that we were sure. We believed that we had MCHM. When we asked the question, 'What's in the tank?' that's the answer we got," Huffman said.
"The question that we asked should have revealed this as well."
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said it was "very disappointing" to learn about the existence of the new chemical. He made the comment in a press briefing after a presentation where he declared January "Learn to Ski and Snowboard month."
Southern's letter is the only source mentioned in a press release announcing Freedom had verified that crude MCHM and PPH, stripped were the only chemicals leaked.
DEP spokesman Tom Aluise said the department's order asking for information was the most it could do.
"That's the extent of what we can do. We're going to go forward from here with the remediation and keep a close eye on everything," Aluise said Wednesday evening.
The letter describes the amounts of the new chemical in the tank at the time Freedom believes it began to leak.
Southern writes "after extensive calculations" the company believes crude MCHM made up about 88.5 percent of the tank, with PPH comprising 7.3 percent. The rest, 4.2 percent, was water, according to the letter.
It says PPH is added to crude MCHM "as an 'extender,' in that the crude MCHM is available in limited, sporadic quantities."
Southern calls the material a "hydrophobic glycol ether." A document produced by Dow Chemical, which makes some components of the "PPH, stripped," says glycol ethers are used for cleaning purposes. Crude MCHM is used in the process of cleaning materials from coal.
Southern's letter doesn't use the term "stripped" in describing the chemical. Dorsey said that phrase means it's a byproduct of other chemicals. The exact components of the chemical aren't clear from the Material Safety Data Sheet.
The sheet, provided to the DEP by Freedom, calls the components "polyglycol ethers." It leaves out the specific chemical identity because it's a "trade secret," according to the sheet.
The sheet does say it's a clear, colorless or yellow liquid at 68 degrees Fahrenheit and that it has a "mild" odor.
It can cause eye or skin irritation if someone comes into contact with it, and it can cause nausea if swallowed, according to the sheet.
Health officials were still learning about the chemical late Tuesday.
Although a DEP press release didn't specifically say Freedom broke the law, it said failing to disclose the types of chemicals involved in the spill violates state code.
Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or david.boucher
@dailymailwv.com. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1.