Putnam officials want DEP to void MCHM dumping permit
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Officials with Putnam County and the city of Hurricane want the state Department of Environmental Protection to make sure Waste Management can't deposit MCHM-contaminated wastewater mixed with sawdust into a local landfill again.
Even though Waste Management announced March 15 it is no longer dumping the material, the city and county filed a complaint Monday afternoon asking a Kanawha County judge to force DEP Secretary Randy Huffman "to stop the permitting of the disposal of Crude MCHM, PPH and DiPPH contaminated waste" in the Disposal Services landfill on W.Va. 34. They also want the court to force DEP to "compel the remediation of the ... contaminants that were deposited in Putnam County under the erroneously issued permit."
The lawsuit alleges that neither the governments nor the public were notified that the contaminated material would be stored in Putnam County, nor that the landfill had even applied for a permit modification to accept the material. Freedom Industries spilled the chemical into the Elk River on Jan. 9. It fouled the water of about 300,000 West Virginians for weeks.
The city and county said in their complaint that Waste Management "held no public hearing and received no public input," on the permit change request that allowed the landfill to take MCHM. But DEP spokesman Tom Aluise said the change to the permit was done correctly.
County Commission President Steve Andes said the two governments asked Huffman on Friday to void the permit, and said Monday they would request an injunction if the agency did note comply.
Aluise said the permit had not been revoked as of Monday afternoon, but he didn't know if a decision had been made to do so. He hadn't seen the lawsuit, which was filed around 1:30 p.m. Monday.
The city and county said the local health officer for the Putnam County and Charleston-Kanawha health departments has advised them that preliminary data "may demonstrate self-reported symptoms associated with inhaling" the chemicals. The governments state they first learned about the chemical when residents began complaining about a licorice smell near the landfill.
"The said health officer also advises that the long term human impact from inhalation of these chemicals is unknown at this time," the suit states. It goes on to express concern about leachate coming from the material already in the landfill, adding that DEP could not have found the landfill to have the means to "store or dispose of this contaminated waste for which no human toxicity tests have been performed to adequately ascertain the toxicity to human health."
Diversified Services, the company hired by Freedom Industries to clean up the spill, was mixing the chemical with sawdust and dumping at the Hurricane landfill.
Waste Management announced March 15 it had voluntarily stopped depositing the material, but Andes said he wants the permit rescinded so the company can't start dumping it again.
"There's the possibility they could go back," Andes said.
Waste Management currently has permission to deposit up to 700 tons of the material in the landfill through October.
Lisa Kardell, public affairs director for the company, said last week the company dumped 36,000 to 40,000 gallons from Feb. 25 until it ceased March 13 following public outcry. Because the wastewater was mixed with sawdust to solidify it, it's unclear how many more tons the company can deposit into the landfill. Waste Management officials could not be reached for comment Monday.
Aluise said the landfill was the only one in the state allowed to accepted the contaminated water. He said the Freedom Industries site cleanup must ensure MCHM doesn't get into waterways, so any rainwater or snow melt that runs across the site is being collected.
He said Monday that Freedom is negotiating with two industrial/commercial wastewater facilities in Ohio and one in North Carolina to take the wastewater.
The city of Hurricane had requested an injunction earlier, but Edwards said they dropped that request after Waste Management pledged to stop depositing the chemical. However, he said last week he was still talking with lawyers and chemical experts about what to do about the material already in the landfill.
Reach Ryan Quinn at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1254.