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Hurricane landfill's MCHM permit 'dead'

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Waste Management's permit modification allowing it to dump MCHM-contaminated wastewater mixed with sawdust into a Hurricane landfill is "dead," a spokeswoman for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection said Friday.

Kelley Gillenwater said Waste Management has changed its permit to deposit 700 tons of the material into its Disposal Services landfill in Putnam County. Waste Management changed the date from Oct. 1 to March 26, which was Wednesday, so the approval is now expired.

The company announced March 15 that it would stop dumping at the Hurricane site, following public backlash to the 36,000 to 40,000 gallons the company said it deposited from Feb. 25 to March 13.

However, Putnam County Commission President Steve Andes said he wanted the permit change rescinded so the company couldn't start dumping again.

On Monday, Putnam County and the city of Hurricane asked a Kanawha County circuit judge to force DEP Secretary Randy Huffman "to stop the permitting of the disposal of Crude MCHM-, PPH- and DiPPH-contaminated waste in the landfill.

Circuit Judge Paul Zakaib granted a preliminary injunction blocking the DEP from allowing Waste Management to dump the material, and he scheduled a hearing for Friday to determine whether to make the injunction permanent or not. However, when the DEP's lawyers told Zakaib at the hearing that the permit was now expired, the judge dismissed the case.

Putnam County Attorney Jennifer Scragg Karr wanted to proceed with the hearing, to explain why Waste Management should never have been granted a permit and set precedent "that they not be allowed to do this again with anyone else."

The judge said that wasn't necessary, though, because residents near the Hurricane landfill weren't affected anymore.

"We're concerned with the case of the plaintiffs here," Zakaib said, "not anybody else."

Friday's hearing was supposed to also deal with the county and city's request to force the DEP to compel the remediation of the chemicals already there. Hurricane City Manager Ben Newhouse said the city still wants it all removed.

Karr said the county will have to keep working on that issue, hopefully alongside Waste Management and out of court. If that doesn't work, she said, there could be another lawsuit in circuit or federal court.

Freedom Industries leaked the chemical into the Elk River on Jan. 9, fouling the water of about 300,000 West Virginians.

Diversified Services, the company Freedom hired to clean up the chemical, was depositing the material in the landfill. Hurricane and Putnam County officials complained that neither they nor the public were told the contaminated material would be stored in Putnam County, or that the landfill had applied for a permit modification to accept the material.

Andes said the city and county asked Huffman last week to void the permit, and said they would go to court if the agency did not comply. Gillenwater said minor permits do not require public notice -- and that Waste Management didn't violate the permit -- so the DEP didn't rescind it.

The city and county stated in their complaint that the local health officer for the Putnam and Kanawha-Charleston health departments has advised them that preliminary data "may demonstrate self-reported symptoms associated with inhaling" the chemicals. They state that 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," officials said in their lawsuit. They also expressed concern about leachate coming from the material already in the landfill, adding that the 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."

The Hurricane landfill was the only site accepting the material, so officials aren't sure what will happen to the approximately 700,000 gallons of it the DEP says is now sitting in a tank at the Freedom Industries tank farm along the Elk River. Aluise said the site cleanup must ensure that MCHM doesn't get into waterways, so any rainwater or snow melt that runs across the site is being collected.

He said earlier this week that Freedom was negotiating with two industrial/commercial wastewater facilities in Ohio and one in North Carolina to take the wastewater.

Reach Ryan Quinn at ryan.quinn@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1254.


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