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DEP official: No MCHM reached river in 2nd Freedom incident

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Contractors at the Freedom Industries tank farm along the Elk River hit an underground pipe Thursday night, releasing more Crude MCHM and, with it, more of the strong, black-licorice odor into the surrounding air.

None of the chemical that spilled ended up in the Elk River, a state official said Friday.

The incident occurred at about 6 p.m., said Mike Dorsey, director of emergency response and homeland security for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.

"It wasn't so much of an incident," Dorsey said. "None of the stuff got into the river."

Dorsey said whatever MCHM was released was held within a "cutoff trench" crews dug to try to block any contaminated material from the site from leaching into the river.

According to Dorsey, the incident occurred when cleanup crews from Diversified Services, a contractor for Freedom Industries, were using an excavator to enlarge the cutoff trench. He said they hit an underground pipe they didn't know was there.

It's not exactly clear what the pipe is for, and apparently it isn't marked on plans of the site, Dorsey said.

"It's kind of like a lot of the piping up there," Dorsey said. "It's got some groundwater in it. We don't know where it is coming from."

Dorsey characterized the amount of MCHM that was involved as "a trickle."

"It was tens of gallons," Dorsey said, "not hundreds or thousands of gallons."

Still, the leak produced the now familiar odor, leading to at least four complaints from nearby residents, Dorsey said.

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.


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