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DEP: Freedom leaked as much as 10,000 gallons

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Freedom Industries now believes at least 10,000 gallons of chemicals leaked Jan. 9 from a faulty storage tank.

The new estimate is the latest -- and largest – estimate for the amount of the chemicals that played a role in preventing 300,000 West Virginians from having safe tap water.

"This new calculation does not change any of our protocols in dealing with this spill, nor does it affect the ongoing remediation efforts," state Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Randy Huffman said in a press release.

"Our actions have never been dependent on what Freedom has reported to us. From the start, we have acted aggressively to contain the spill and remediate the site."

The state still doesn't know how much of the mixture of crude MCHM and PPH in the tank seeped through an old concrete wall meant to contain such leaks.

Freedom told the DEP it had 110,375 gallons of the two chemicals combined on Jan. 8 in three different tanks. After the spill the company moved the rest of the chemical to a location it owns in Nitro, called Poca Blending LLC.

As of Jan. 21 Freedom "measured" 100,233 gallons in six tanks at the Poca Blending site.

"The difference between the value from the morning of Jan. 9 and the value from Jan. 21 is 10,142 gallons. We therefore estimate that approximately 10,000 gallons of MCHM/PPH blend was released the morning of Jan. 9," Freedom said in a response to a DEP order.

Freedom has recovered about 1,272 gallons of chemicals at the site using "absorbent booms and other control devices," according to the DEP press release. It wasn't immediately clear how that number might relate to the amount spilled and amount that made it into the nearby West Virginia American Water Co. treatment facility.

Estimates as to the amount that might have leaked from the container have seesawed since the spill.

Initially officials with the DEP guessed between 2,000 and 5,000 gallons of chemicals spilled out of the storage tank. That number jumped to as much as 7,500 gallons within days of the initial estimate.

On Jan. 21 DEP official Mike Dorsey told a legislative committee the agency believed 6,251 gallons leaked.

"The number goes up and down, up and down, up and down. We don't know," Dorsey said the following day.

"Yesterday it was less, today it's more. That's all I really know about that. And are either of those numbers real? I don't know."

Initial reports on the size of the tank holding the chemicals also varied.

Freedom President Gary Southern said the tank could hold 35,000 gallons. Initially state officials reported the tank could hold 40,000.

In order to hold the reported 110,375 gallons of crude MCHM/PPH, stripped, and if Southern's report is accurate, the other two tanks would need to be larger than the faulty tank.

The DEP news release Monday didn't include a size for either of the other two tanks.

There are 14 other tanks that at one point were used to store hundreds of thousands of gallons of other chemicals at the site.

It wasn't immediately clear how many gallons of other chemicals remained on site.

Freedom must remove all of those chemicals by March 15. It must start deconstructing the facility by that date as well, according to a different DEP order.

This is a developing story. Look to www.dailymailwv.com for more information as it develops.

tagline: Contact writer Dave Boucher at david.boucher@dailymailwv.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1.

 


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