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Hurricane mayor objects to MCHM

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Hurricane Mayor Scott Edwards said he learned Wednesday that thousands of gallons of contaminated wastewater from Freedom Industries are being dumped at Disposal Services Inc., a landfill on W.Va. 34 in Hurricane.

He found out after residents along the road, and nearby U.S. 60, started complaining about a licorice smell near their homes.

"So far they've dumped about 35,000 gallons of MCHM water into the Hurricane landfill," Edwards said. "People were smelling licorice up and down Route 60 and Route 34 in Hurricane."

The state Department of Environmental Protection responded to several odor complaints on Wednesday and determined the licorice odor was caused by the water being brought to the landfill.

Waste Management owns the landfill, where they've been dumping the water since March 7. Edwards said the city was not notified of the agreement. WM has been adding sawdust to the water to solidify it in order to try to prevent it from seeping into the ground, but Edwards said the city has already filed a lawsuit and an injunction.

"Hurricane wasn't tainted in the original spill, and now everyone is smelling licorice out on Route 34 and Route 60," Edwards said.

An initial "test load" of contaminated water was delivered to the landfill on Feb. 24, DEP spokesman Tom Aluise said. The landfill's permit says it can accept wastewater through October.

"They're just trucking it in here and dumping it," Edwards said. "We've been getting complaints -- 911 was called yesterday, because there's a preschool ... and people were taking their kids home because the smell was so overpowering."

One of the companies transporting the contaminated water is Diversified Services, a St. Albans contractor that has been helping clean up the Freedom site since the leak.

Diversified, like Freedom, is under federal investigation.

"We do not know the specifics of the federal investigation into Diversified," Aluise said when asked if they had confidence in Diversified. "We expect Diversified to comply with any permits it has with our agency and will take appropriate action if violations are discovered."

Edwards said he's wary of trusting government officials who have declared that the chemical isn't hazardous, and is concerned about how the dumping will impact city residents' health.

"Who knows what MCHM will actually do? Nobody knows," he said. "The chemical leak may have been an accident caused by negligence, but this wasn't an accident -- they chose to bring it to Hurricane. The accident that happened two months ago, was an accident, if an negligent one -- this decision was simply negligence."

Any material that leaches out of the landfill will be piped to the Hurricane wastewater treatment plant, Aluise said.

"I don't have information immediately available on how much leachate this landfill produces," Aluise wrote in an email, "but the presence of some amounts of MCHM in wastewater being solidified and placed into the landfill doesn't necessarily indicate that MCHM will be found in the leachate."

Edwards said there is no danger of the chemical leaching into Hurricane's water, but he encouraged anyone concerned to call the governor's office at 304-558-2000.

Staff writer David Gutman contributed to this report. Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nuzum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.


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