Friday, January 09, 2015

Freedom Industries knew of dangers years before chemical leak in Elk River, documents reveal

Newly unsealed documents reveal that Freedom Industries knew about serious problems with the spill-containment dikes at the company’s Elk River facility years before the January 2014 chemical leak that contaminated the drinking water of 300,000 people in Charleston and surrounding communities, Ken Ward reports for the Charleston Gazette. Last month Freedom and six of its owners, managers and employees were charged with criminal violations of the Clean Water Act related to the spill. (Gazette photo by F. Brian Ferguson: The Freedom site today)

"Freedom was 'long aware' of 'inadequacies' with the containment dike around Tank 396—the one that leaked MCHM and other chemicals into the Elk on Jan. 9, 2014—and also knew the tank was old, had not been properly inspected and needed to be replaced, according to an FBI affidavit made public late Wednesday in U.S. District Court," Ward writes.

FBI Special Agent Jim Lafferty wrote: “The containment area at the Etowah Facility within which Freedom stored MCHM was incapable of holding a significant chemical spill. There were numerous cracks in the dike wall. Moreover, at various spots along the dike wall, mortar had ended between and underneath the blocks, thus creating space through which liquid could leak.”

On Thursday state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey "released a report that outlined similar findings regarding a long history of Freedom officials knowing about problems at the Elk River site but not taking action to fix them," Ward writes. "The 49-page report said that 'among the most disturbing findings' of the state investigation was that Freedom employees and outside consultants 'warned of a potential catstrophic incident due to poor tank conditions and design problems for years and in some cases offered solutions' that were never acted upon." (Read more)

No comments: