CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Federal investigators remain unsure how much chemical contamination there is in the soil and groundwater at the Freedom Industries' tank farm that spilled thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals in the region's Elk River drinking water supply.
So far, state and federal government agencies have provided the public with few details about the long-term plans for cleaning up the site, which is just 1.5 miles upstream from the West Virginia American Water intake.
Officials have also not provided even a description of the process for how that long-term plan will be developed -- or how members of the public can learn the details of it and provide any input.
"I know they are working on the plan right now," said Fran Burns, remedial project manager for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's regional office in Philadelphia.
EPA officials made Burns available for an interview to answer Gazette questions about the extent of contamination at the site, what has been done to control any additional runoff, and long-term prospects for remediation of the tank farm.
The state Department of Environmental Protection has not responded to requests for an interview or briefing to address those same issues.
Burns said that EPA believes that cleanup crews -- from a contractor hired by Freedom Industries -- have taken adequate steps to avoid further pollution from the site reaching the Elk River.
"As far as the extent of contamination of the spill, the work that has been going on at the site has contained anything that spilled," Burns said.
"Since the initial response, the material has been collected that could move off the site," Burns said. "There are a series of things in place, there are sumps, there is an interceptor trench, pumping the water that they collect in the trench. There have been booms set up in the river so that any material that would escape from the trench or off site is collected by the booms."
Burns said that some of the material from the Crude MCHM tank that leaked reached the river from surface runoff and some from underground leaching.
"We suspect that some of both happened," Burns said. We don't know how much of it is subsurface. It could be a little. It could be a lot.
"There are things in place now to control anything that may be remaining on the site," Burns said. "It's very hard to say what may be left at this point."