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Ken Ward Jr.

Staff writer
  • Phone 304-348-1702
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Feds to conduct more studies of MCHM

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Federal scientists will conduct new studies to examine the potential health effects of exposure to the chemicals released during the January leak at the Freedom Industries tank farm along the Elk River in Charleston, und...

Freedom executives want legal costs paid

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The nearly $3 million settlement Freedom Industries has reached with its insurance company has hit a potential snag, as former officers of the bankrupt company try to force that insurer, AIG Sp...

Ex-miner seeks to break black lung backlog

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A retired West Virginia coal miner on Tuesday asked Congress to help streamline the process of obtaining black lung benefits, and the Obama administration insisted it is taking steps to fix lon...

Security guard included in state mine death count

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West Virginia officials said Monday that they will include the April drowning of a security guard at a barge loading facility in Kanawha County in their count of this year’s coal industry deaths.

Eugene Whit...

Proposed MCHM leak settlement could fund health studies, water testing

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More than $2.9 million in insurance money, and potentially funds from other assets of Freedom Industries, could be spent for health studies, water testing or other projects to benefit Kanawha Valley residents and busines...

DEP cites mining operation near Kanawha State Forest

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Earlier this week, West Virginia environmental inspectors ordered work halted at the KD Surface Mine No. 2, the new mountaintop removal site that Keystone Industries is operating next to Kanawha State Forest.

Depar...

CSB: Hancock plant deaths show need for OSHA dust rule

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Federal regulators, state inspectors and company officials did not take steps that could have prevented a December 2010 explosion and fire that killed three workers at a Hancock County metals recycling plant, U.S. Chemic...

‘A serious corrosion problem’ found: As Freedom tanks come down, CSB says MCHM started leaking before Jan. 9 discovery

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Citing “extensive corrosion,” federal investigators said an MCHM chemical storage tank at the Freedom Industries site along the Elk River likely was leaking prior to the Jan. 9 spill that contaminated the d...

Freedom Industries site demolition begins

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As another brief summer storm rolled through Tuesday afternoon, Mark Welch was watching the clock and monitoring the skies, hoping everything would line up perfectly so he could get moving on the next step in ridding the...

MSHA fire prevention course would settle Aracoma mine lawsuit

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Federal safety regulators have agreed to create a mine fire prevention training course as part of a proposal to settle a lawsuit brought against the government over lax enforcement at a Massey Energy operation where two ...

Appeals court upholds EPA’s mountaintop removal crackdown

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In a significant victory for the Obama administration’s coal policies, a federal appeals court on Friday upheld U.S. Environmental Protection Agency initiatives aimed at reducing water pollution from mountaintop r...

No plans in place for air monitoring during Freedom cleanup

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State and federal environmental agencies have no plans in place to monitor air quality for emissions of the toxic chemical MCHM as work tearing down chemical storage tanks is set to begin next week a...

MCHM could be more toxic than reported, new study says

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The main chemical that leaked into the region’s Elk River drinking water supply might be much more toxic than has previously been reported, according to a new analysis made public Thursday by a researcher who has ...

Freedom Industries tank demolition expected to start next week

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Crews are hoping to get started early next week on the major work of tearing down most of the chemical storage tanks at Freedom Industries, and officials overseeing the job hope to be done within a month on that part of ...

CDC survey says one-fifth of residents reported health issues after spill

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A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says more than one-fifth of households surveyed in the Kanawha Valley reported health effects that residents believed were related to toxic exposure following the Ja...

Few chemical spill claims so far in Freedom bankruptcy

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A court-appointed claims agent is concerned that few residents affected by the January Elk River chemical spill have come forward so far to file financial claims against Freedom Industries in the company’s bankrup...

Water company testimony highlights lack of options during Elk River spill

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West Virginia American Water officials have made public a new and somewhat more detailed defense of the company’s decision not to shut down its drinking water intake pumps immediately following the Freedom Industr...

Mining reduces fish population, new study says

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Appalachian streams affected by mountaintop removal coal mining can have fewer than half as many fish species and a third as many total fish as other regional waterways, according to a new study published this week by re...

Citizens support DEP’s Kanawha River protection proposal

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Citizens from local and statewide groups turned out Tuesday evening to support a Tomblin administration proposal to redesignate the Kanawha River as a potential source for public drinking water.

Speaking in favor o...

Kanawha River pollution subject of Tuesday DEP hearing

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Later this week, Kanawha Valley residents will get the chance to tell state regulators what they think of a Tomblin administration proposal to redesignate the Kanawha River as a potential source of public drinking water....

Freedom Industries reaches $3M deal with insurance company

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Freedom Industries says it has reached a nearly $3 million settlement with its insurance company over coverage related to the Jan. 9 Elk River chemical leak, as state public health officials release new data from a surve...

W.Va. governor rejects call for more home water testing for MCHM

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Rejecting the recommendation of his own experts, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said Thursday he has no immediate plans to conduct additional testing of home tap water to determine if any Crude MCHM from the Freedom Industries le...

Judge defends handling of Freedom bankruptcy case

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The judge overseeing the Freedom Industries bankruptcy proceeding on Thursday issued an order defending his handling of the controversial case, but also said the company’s chief restructuring officer should provid...

New citizens group wants in on PSC inquiry of MCHM leak

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A new citizens group formed after the Jan. 9 Elk River chemical leak wants to have its say in the state Public Service Commission’s investigation of how West Virginia American Water responded to the incident.

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Manchin seeks ‘common ground’ with advocate for climate change action

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Sen. Joe Manchin is joining with one of the Senate’s strongest advocates for action to reduce greenhouse gas pollution to seek what Manchin calls “common ground” solutions to address climate change, ...

Wyoming County coal mine may be idled

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Cliffs Natural Resources said Wednesday that it may temporarily idle its Pinnacle Mine, a major steel-making coal operation that employs nearly 400 people in Wyoming County.

In a

Chemical board under fire amid investigation backlog

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A key federal agency that is investigating the January’s Elk River chemical spill is in turmoil.

Top leadership at the U.S. Chemical Safety Board are being harshly criticized by a board member, a former boar...

Freedom bankruptcy raises questions about chemical cleanup

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The ongoing Freedom Industries bankruptcy could easily turn into a tug-of-war over the cleanup of contamination at the site of the January chemical leak that polluted the drinking water supply that serves 300,000 people ...

DEP increases inspections at Freedom tank farm

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State regulators are now inspecting the Freedom Industries tank farm at least twice a day, doubling their presence at the site of the January chemical spill that contaminated the drinking water system that serves 300,000...

Residents affected by spill should file claims in Freedom bankruptcy, lawyers say

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Kanawha Valley residents and businesses who were affected by the Elk River chemical spill should all file financial claims against Freedom Industries as part of the company’s ongoing bankruptcy case, according to ...

Freedom fires cleanup contractor; judge sets claims deadline

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Freedom Industries has terminated the contractor in charge of the cleanup of its Elk River chemical tank farm, just days after two incidents in which stormwater overflowed a collection ditch at the high-profile site, sen...

Landowner reaches deal on mountaintop removal pollution

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Environmental groups have reached an agreement through which a corporate landowner will apply for a Clean Water Act permit to regulate ongoing pollution from a valley fill at a strip-mine site in Mingo County, the groups...

Water company certain MCHM is out of system

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West Virginia American Water Co. on Tuesday released the results of a series of water samples that the company said shows there “is no reason to believe” that chemicals from the January leak at Freedom Indu...

DHHR may need more money for water safety, lawmakers told

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As the state Department of Health and Human Resources moves to implement the state’s new drinking water safety legislation, agency officials are telling lawmakers they may need additional funding to do the job.

NIOSH mysteriously backs off support for ‘safety case’ approach

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A federal agency charged with studying and promoting worker safety and health has with little explanation backed off its public support for two proposals that would require companies to show what they have done to reduce...

Freedom proposes runoff control steps in face of DEP orders, water company criticism

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Freedom Industries proposed on Saturday to double its runoff pumping capacity and post contractors around the clock at its Elk River chemical tank farm, in response to demands from state regulators and in the face of str...

Freedom Industries stormwater runoff trench overflows — 2 days in a row

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Shortly after 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection inspector Ryan Harbison began one of the DEP’s daily walk-around inspections of the Freedom Industries tank farm, the now-i...

Chem board to report on fatal Hancock plant fire

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Federal investigators have scheduled a meeting for mid-July to release their long-awaited findings of a probe of the December 2010 explosion and fire that killed three workers at a Hancock County metals recycling plant.<...

DEP plans more detailed water monitoring at coal processing plant

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As West Virginia regulators publicly tout the $72,000 in fines they’ll collect from Patriot Coal for a high-profile slurry spill four months ago, Department of Environmental Protection officials are also quietly f...

Pipe tests show ‘limited’ MCHM permeation

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The main chemical involved in January’s leak into the Elk River showed “some, but limited, permeation” with home plumbing system materials, university researchers said this week in an important findi...

Freedom Industries cleanup price tag still unknown

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Contracting crews are set to begin tearing down Freedom Industries’ chemical storage tanks along the Elk River as early as this week, but officials say they can’t provide the public with estimates of projec...

Obama’s chemical safety plan ‘disappointing’

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An Obama administration report on chemical plant safety outlines some potentially significant reforms, but offers few concrete details or clear timelines for how federal agencies will try to stop a string of major accide...

In key ruling, judge finds Alpha mining ‘conductivity’ pollution damaged water quality

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Citing what he said was “extensive scientific evidence,” a federal judge has ruled for the first time that conductivity pollution from mountaintop removal mining operations is damaging streams in Southern W...

Freedom cleanup budget under seal

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While court records indicate that some expenses reported by Freedom Industries on the cleanup of its Elk River chemical tank farm are coming back significantly over budget, details about the company’s budget and p...

WVTAP: Test 720 homes for MCHM in water

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Experts hired by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin have recommended West Virginia conduct a broader sampling program of home tap water to ensure the elimination of MCHM from January’s chemical leak and improve public confiden...

EPA plans cuts, but coal still in mix

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The coal industry could take a significant hit, but would continue to fuel 30 percent of the nation’s electricity generation by 2030 under an Obama administration plan to curb emissions of heat-trapping carbon dio...

Tomblin: ‘Our worst fears’; power companies studying it

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West Virginia political leaders mostly joined forces Monday to voice strong opposition to the Obama administration’s plan to curb global warming, vowing to fight the proposal in the court of public opinion and the...

Radcliff returning as DEP environmental advocate

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The state Department of Environmental Protection has hired the agency’s former environmental advocate to again fill the post.

Wendy Radcliff was appointed by DEP Secretary Randy Huffman and will resume the ...

W.Va. at climate change crossroads as EPA power plant rules loom

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Last June, on a warm day on the campus of Georgetown University, President Obama took off his suit jacket and launched into his most significant speech to date about the dangers human society faces from the buildup of gr...

W.Va. at climate change crossroads as EPA power plant rules loom

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Last June, on a warm day on the campus of Georgetown University, President Obama took off his suit coat and launched into his most significant speech to date about the dangers human society faces from the buildup of gree...