But, Messina said, emergency planning is only required for facilities that store certain amounts of a smaller set of chemicals classified for purposes of EPCRA as "extremely hazardous." That list doesn't include Crude MCHM, Messina said, so no planning activities were specifically required.
"This department and its divisions strive to carry out the law as it is given to us by the policymakers," Messina said. "This department is doing everything that is required of it."
Still, state and federal law both give the governor and the SERC authority to add facilities to the emergency-planning list, regardless of whether they meet the specific legal definitions that would require it.
Kent Carper, president of the Kanawha County Commission, said there's simply no question that the Freedom Industries site should have been included in emergency plans, given that it was "hidden in plain sight" so close to an important regional water intake.
"I'm not going to stand here and lie to the people of this county and say we had a plan for this," Carper said. "I'm just going to deal with it."
Carper said local emergency planners "need to step up to the plate."
In Kanawha County, emergency officials, who are charged by law with chemical accident planning, didn't act to prepare for this type of incident, even though they had been warned for years about storage of toxic chemicals so close to the West Virginia American Water plant serving the Kanawha Valley and surrounding region.
Larry Zuspan, administrator of the Kanawha-Putnam Emergency Planning Committee, said that when Thursday's spill initially happened, he had a hard time finding the chemical inventory reports for the site. Company officials had submitted the reports, he said, under the name of Etowah River Terminal -- their name for the operation -- rather than under Freedom Industries, Zuspan said.
"That kind of threw us for a loop," he said. "Why did they do it that way?"
Zuspan said that he's not aware of any efforts by his agency to use the Freedom Industries' chemical inventory report for emergency preparedness activities.
"That's just something that's kind of fallen by the wayside," Zuspan said. "For a small company like this, it just kind of fell through the cracks."
C.W. Sigman, deputy director of emergency services for Kanawha County, said he became familiar with the material that spilled because of previous odor complaints at one site in St. Albans and another between Marmet and Chesapeake.
Several years ago, Sigman said, he drove to the eastern Kanawha County site on a Sunday, his wife in tow, to investigate an odor complaint. The smell helped him find the name of the chemical and then look it up on the county's chemical inventory filings.
"My wife Googles 'smells like licorice,' and we find it," Sigman said.
But, Sigman said, local officials never examined the potential for a spill at Freedom Industries to affect the region's water. "Specifically on that particular plant, other than knowing what the material was, I don't know of any specific planning," Sigman said.
In recent days, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has said that he has the Department of Environmental Protection working on potential legislation to address situations like the chemical spill.
DEP Secretary Randy Huffman said his agency is looking at options for permitting and inspections of small chemical tank farms like the one operated by Freedom Industries.
But Huffman said he wasn't aware whether there were any discussions about the state taking action now on a 3-year-old federal Chemical Safety Board recommendation to create a new chemical accident prevention program.
And so far there has been no public mention of beefing up the state's review of chemical inventory forms, or expanding emergency planning requirements to include sites like Freedom's.
Evan Hansen, an environmental consultant with the Morgantown-based firm Downstream Strategies, noted though that the DEP never exercised its existing authority to inspect the Freedom Industries' site under the company's state-issued stormwater runoff permit.
"I can grant that because of resource constraints maybe you can't inspect every single site, but if you are going to do any prioritizing, in your [water pollution], then this would be at the top of the list," Hansen said.
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.