#wvchemleak: A chemical spill near Charleston, WV has contaminated the tap water for 300,000 people


A chemical spill of crude MCHM into the Elk River near Charleston, WV on January 9, 2014 has contaminated the tap water for 300,000 customers of West Virginia American Water. The chemical was stored in tanks owned by Freedom Industries. Crude MCHM (MSDS, Eastman Chemical) is a mixture of several chemicals, including 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol, 4-
(methoxymethyl)cyclohexanemethanol, methyl 4-methylcyclohexanecarboxylate, dimethyl 1,4-
cyclohexanedicarboxylate, methanol, and 1,4-cyclohexanedimethanol; it is used in the coal processing industry to produce “clean coal” that has impurities removed.


Photo: Foo Conner (@iwasaround), CC BY 2.0. Some rights reserved.

This is a developing story; if you are in the affected area, please seek accurate and timely information from local sources. If you are looking for water, wvfindwater.com has a map with details of water distribution sites.


Some of those sources might include stories from local newspapers, radio stations, and television stations. One of the best sources is Ken Ward, Jr., who writes the “Coal Tattoo” weblog for the Charleston (WV) Gazette.

Saturday Gazette-Mail – Freedom Industries cited for Elk chemical spill – Ken Ward, Jr.

Dorsey has said DEP officials began an investigation after receiving odor complaints from nearby residents starting at about 8:15 a.m. The DEP and Kanawha County emergency officials traced the odors to Freedom Industries, which had not self-reported any sort of leak or accident, officials said.

In an air-quality enforcement order, the DEP said air-quality officials who arrived at the site at 11:10 a.m. “discovered that no spill containment measures had been initiated and that an accumulating MCHM leak pool was seeping thru a dike wall adjacent to the Elk River and a downstream oil sheen was observed.”

Charleston Gazette – What is ‘Crude MCHM’? Few know – Ken Ward, Jr.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As hundreds of thousands of residents in and around the Kanawha Valley struggle with the “do not use” order from West Virginia American Water Co., one stubborn fact continues to frustrate residents and some local health officials alike: No one seems to be able to say for sure what the coal-cleaning chemical that’s been dumped into our water supply might do to us.

Water company officials have identified the chemical — which leaked from a Freedom Industries tank just upstream from the regional drinking-water intake on the Elk River — as something called “Crude MCHM.” That material is made up almost entirely of another chemical, 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol.

Material-safety sheets from several manufacturers list little in the way of health information. Toxicological databases provide few answers.

West Virginia Public Broadcasting – State of Emergency, Water Advisory Issued for 9 West Virginia Counties

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has issued a state of emergency and West Virginia American Water is telling over 100,000 customers in Boone, Cabell, Clay, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Putnam, and Roane counties NOT to ingest, cook, bathe, wash or boil water. Water in this coverage area is okayed ONLY for flushing and fire protection. The advisory comes as a result of a chemical spill of 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol from Freedom Industries, Inc.

The hashtag #wvchemleak is being used for news and discussion of the event.


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