CHARLESTON, WV -- "Unacceptable."
That's how Kanawha County's top health official and the state's top environmental regulator described Freedom Industries' late revelation that a tank that leaked into the Elk River Jan. 9 actually contained not one, but two chemicals.
"It's unacceptable to anybody that the CEO of Freedom is disclosing on day 12 that there are other chemicals mixed in the water," said Dr. Rahul Gupta, Kanawha-Charleston Health Department executive director.
"Not only in micro or minute amounts, but up to 300 gallons. The fact that 300 gallons might have been included is obviously disturbing."
Freedom Industries, the company at the heart of the chemical spill, disclosed Tuesday that the storage tank that leaked crude MCHM also contained about 300 gallons of "PPH, stripped."
But state Department of Environmental Protection officials say they've gotten to the point that they can't trust what Freedom Industries tells them.
They said they can't even get help pinning down how many gallons of chemicals leaked.
Initial estimates about how much leaked from the tank were between 2,000 and 5,000 gallons. That number then went up to as much as 7,500 gallons.
DEP official Mike Dorsey said Tuesday it is now believed 6,251 gallons leaked from the tank.
"The number goes up and down, up and down, up and down. We don't know," Dorsey said Wednesday. "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."
PPH, stripped is added to the crude MCHM mixture and was not included in the initial information about the spilled materials, said state Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Randy Huffman.
The new chemical made up about 7.3 percent of the material in the tank, according to a letter Freedom President Gary Southern sent Wednesday to the DEP.
"PPH, stripped" isn't listed in any of the last six annual "Tier II" chemical inventory reports filed for the site of the spill.
"Having this revelation so late in the game is completely unacceptable," DEP Cabinet Secretary Randy Huffman said in the release.
Gupta echoed Huffman's sentiment.
"It's inexcusable that he failed to disclose this fact that surely would have played a factor into critical decision making that occurred 12 days ago," Gupta said.
Like crude MCHM, Gupta said little is known about potential adverse health effects from the newly identified chemical.
"By this time, we understand that there may not be significant quantities flowing through tap water, which is good," Gupta said. "But it still does not change the fact that this type of disclosure should have happened on day 1, not day 12."
Gupta said news of an additional chemical doesn't make the water "any more or less safe today."
"It seems to have a lower toxicity and a smaller concentration," he said. "However, that does not excuse the fact that this is a great disappointment that the trust has obviously been shaken. And I think that's something that's going to be difficult to rebuild."
Gupta said health officials have seen transient cases of people reporting rashes, eye irritation, nausea, vomiting and stomach aches.
"While we are not at a point where we can prove causality, what we are definitely seeing are these self-reported associations," he said.
In the future, Gupta said he would like to see tools available to use at a local level to study the long-term effects of the chemicals.
He said generally, a chemical's effect is associated with the duration of contamination and the concentration.
"There needs to be a system put in where we can measure these over the next 10 years or so," he said. "The way I would put it is we don't know the long-term impact. I don't think that the short-term exposure is long enough to cause long-term impact but we don't know that.
"This has happened to us," Gupta said. "Now, we have to make sure this doesn't happen again to anybody."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent a letter Tuesday to the state Bureau for Public Health. The letter says the CDC is still learning about the chemical, but an initial review of Material Safety Data Sheets doesn't suggest any new health concerns.
"An initial review of the currently available toxicologic information does not suggest any new health concerns associated with the release of PPH," the letter states.
"At this point, toxicologic information about PPH is limited; however (the CDC and its agencies) will continue to work closely with the State of West Virginia and its Federal partner agencies to search for additional relevant information."
Several laboratories are testing water that was collected both before and after the do-not-use order was lifted, according to a statement by West Virginia American Water Co. Wednesday afternoon.
Those results will be available online soon, Tomblin spokeswoman Amy Shuler Goodwin said Wednesday afternoon. They were not available as of 7 p.m.
The water company said test results for crude MCHM show amounts are going down. Several tests released by the state show the chemical is at non-detectable levels.
State and water company officials said they are going to test samples for any level of the new substance. Those results weren't immediately available Wednesday evening.
Writer Dave Boucher contributed to this report.
Contact writer Andrea Lannom at Andrea.Lan...@dailymail
wv.com or 304-348-5148. Follow her at www.twitter.com/AndreaLannom.