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'Suspected chemical release' in St. Albans

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- State regulators said Friday they are investigating a "suspected chemical release" at the St. Albans company that's been handling cleanup work for Freedom Industries following the Jan. 9 leak of Crude MCHM into the region's Elk River drinking-water supply.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection said it is looking into a situation at Diversified Services in St. Albans. The company is a chemical hauling firm that transported MCHM for Freedom Industries and has been working as a cleanup contractor at Freedom's Elk River site.

In a prepared statement, the DEP said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency informed state officials Friday "of a sheen in a drainage system" near the Diversified headquarters in St. Albans.

"WVDEP inspectors are on the scene taking samples to determine the composition of the material released," the statement said. "It is not known how much material got into the drainage system or the exact cause and timeframe of the release."

The DEP said the drainage system in question empties into a tributary of the Kanawha River. There are no public water intakes "immediately downstream" of the site, the DEP said. The nearest surface-water public intake is in Huntington, the DEP said. The city of St. Albans gets its drinking water from the Coal River.

"Diversified Services has been instructed to implement or install containment measures in the drainage system," the DEP said.

The DEP said the EPA is conducting a separate investigation of Diversified Services, along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

On Thursday, FBI agents were at Diversified's headquarters, located on Virginia Street North, in St. Albans.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin has said his office is conducting a criminal investigation of the Jan. 9 leak at Freedom Industries, but Goodwin wouldn't comment Thursday about why FBI agents were at Diversified.

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


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