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Judge blocks MCHM dumping in Putnam County

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Kanawha County judge has temporarily blocked the state Department of Environmental Protection from allowing the dumping of MCHM-contaminated wastewater mixed with sawdust into a Hurricane landfill.

Circuit Judge Paul Zakaib issued an order late Monday granting a preliminary injunction that stops the material "and any related chemically tainted waste from Freedom Industries" from being dumped in the Disposal Services landfill on W.Va. 34 while litigation is pending.

Earlier Monday, officials with Putnam County and the city of Hurricane filed a lawsuit that asked the judge to issue the preliminary stay. Waste Management had said March 15 it was no longer dumping at the Hurricane site.

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.

Zakaib will hold a hearing Friday to see if the injunction should remain in effect.

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 not comply.

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.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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