Responding to the Freedom Industries chemical spill
Freedom Industries and the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) arrived at a settlement this past week in the Freedom bankruptcy case. The settlement would require Freedom Industries and its parent company Chemstream Holdings to contribute $2.5 million towards cleaning up the Elk River site. This is progress over a couple months ago, when Freedom argued that it could only contribute $150,000.
Assuming the settlement is approved by the bankruptcy judge, there’s more money available for the cleanup, which is a good thing. But DEP still hasn’t publicly provided any guidance on what standards it expects for the cleanup. DEP has stated that more data is necessary to determine the extent of the remediation needed – many of these data deficiencies were noted by DEP in its most recent set of comments on Freedom’s “site investigation report”. Under the proposed settlement DEP won’t be able to get any additional funds out of Freedom. Somehow, though, DEP Secretary Huffman is confident that $2.5 million will be enough to cover the unknown cleanup costs.
As part of the settlement, DEP is waiving its right to sue Freedom or Chemstream for anything related to the remediation. This is a bit worrisome given how poorly Freedom appears to be living up to its end of the Voluntary Remediation Agreement (both of Freedom’s initial work plans were rejected by DEP).
It may be that this is the best deal that DEP could have gotten out of the bankruptcy case. But there are still literally tons of MCHM sitting around in the soil at the Freedom Industries site, a mile and a half upstream from WV American Water’s intake, where the company still isn’t monitoring for MCHM. So the question then becomes, how is DEP going to be monitoring runoff from the site to make sure the public and the water company are promptly notified about any MCHM leaching into the Elk?