CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Freedom Industries, the company whose chemical spill is responsible for the contamination of much of the Kanawha Valley's water, has existed in its current form for less than two weeks.
On the last day of 2013, Freedom Industries, which distributes chemicals used in coal mining, merged with three other companies: Etowah River Terminal, Poca Blending and Crete Technologies, a Delaware company.
Poca Blending, in Nitro, and Etowah River Terminal, in Charleston, now comprise the two branches of Freedom Industries.
The company's website says the Charleston branch, which spilled the chemical, "can process large volumes of chemical rapidly, and cost effectively."
Smells from the spill were reported early Thursday morning, but Freedom mostly stonewalled media inquiries -- releasing only a bland news release through a public relations firm -- until a 10-minute news conference Friday evening.
At the news conference, Freedom Industries President Gary Southern gave few details about the company, made several statements seemingly in conflict with what government officials have said, and was whisked away by a public relations handler with reporters still shouting questions.
Prior to the news conference, the most extensive public statement from anyone connected with the company came Friday afternoon from Kathy Stover-Kennedy, the girlfriend of Freedom Industries executive Dennis P. Farrell.
Stover-Kennedy stressed that the spill was an accident and said that Farrell has received threatening and frightening messages from people around the world.
"I'm not asking for anyone's sympathy but a little empathy wouldn't hurt. And just so you know, the boys at the plant made and drank coffee this morning! I showered and brushed my teeth this morning and I am just fine!" Stover-Kennedy wrote on her personal Facebook page.
"There has been criticism from many about how Freedom Industries is handling this," she continued. "Denny is not a spokesperson and has no desire to be. His expertise was much needed elsewhere. If he had taken the time to talk to the numerous media networks, giving statements, he would not have been able to react to the situation and perform his job accordingly. It wasn't his decision to hire a spokesperson and it isn't his job to be one."
Details are still scant about Farrell and the company's two founders, but some details about the men, Southern and Carl L. Kennedy II, are known.
Freedom Industries was founded in 1992 by Southern and Kennedy, according to filings with the West Virginia secretary of state.
Kennedy is still listed as "incorporator" on the secretary of state's website, but a woman who answered the phone at Freedom Industries said he left the company "years ago."
In 2005, federal prosecutors charged Kennedy with failing to pay more than $200,000 in income taxes, according to reports at the time. In 1987, he pleaded guilty to selling between 10 and 12 ounces of cocaine, according to reports.