The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

State News

January 15, 2014

UPDATE: Chemical spill company cited for issues at second site

DEP says secondary containment missing at new location

CHARLESTON — State inspectors have cited the company whose spill contaminated the water supply for 300,000 West Virginians for five violations at a second facility where it is storing chemicals, and they say Freedom Industries might have to relocate its materials again because of a lack of a secondary containment plan.

State inspectors found the violations Monday at a Nitro site where Freedom Industries moved its coal-cleaning chemicals after Thursday’s spill, according to a state Department of Environmental Protection report. Inspectors found that, like the Charleston facility where the leak originated, the Nitro site lacked appropriate last-resort containment to stop chemical leaks.

A department report described the site’s secondary containment as “deteriorated or nonexistent.” It described a building with holes in its walls at floor level and a trench surrounding the structure that lets stormwater mix with spilled chemicals.

Department spokesman Tom Aluise said the ditch eventually drains into the river.

The facility had no documentation of inspections of the Nitro site. Nor did it have proof of employee training in the past 10 years, the report said.

Aluise said Wednesday that the state might force Freedom to move the material again or build secondary containment structures. The department said it would tell Freedom how to proceed later Wednesday, according to Aluise, and he said penalties have not been determined. The report only specifies that Freedom Industries has 20 days to provide a written response detailing corrective action.

It’s unclear whether the state had inspected the Nitro facility before Monday. The facility violated its stormwater permit, which doesn’t require routine inspections, Aluise said.

Freedom Industries directed a request for comment to spokeswoman, who said the company didn’t want to comment. Keith Beneker, the Nitro plant manager, also did not answer a phone call.

The Charleston facility flew under the regulatory radar because it only stored, not produced, chemicals, DEP officials have said.

During the 7,500-gallon spill there Thursday, a cracked containment wall allowed the chemical to ooze into the Elk River. Freedom Industries then moved the Charleston site’s remaining 70,000 gallons to Nitro, which isn’t near a river or water supply.

Officials have lifted the water-use ban that resulted from Thursday’s spill for about half of the water system’s customers.

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