More promises, but no data, on clean up of Freedom site

On Tuesday evening, Freedom Industries and the DEP held a public meeting to discuss the remediation of the Freedom Industries site. But there didn’t seem to be too much real information to share. Freedom appears to be trying to minimize the cost of the cleanup because there is not enough money in Freedom’s bankruptcy estate to meet DEP Secretary Huffman’s earlier requirement that there should be no detectable MCHM left at the site. DEP gave Freedom permission to enter the DEP’s “voluntary remediation” program, which Freedom was desperate to do in order to avoid having to remove MCHM down to “non-detect” levels. Now Freedom must remediate the site according to a “risk-based” approach, which has never been defined. It’s not really clear what “risk-based” would mean in a context where the long-term health risks of the chemical are unknown.

Freedom and DEP have until the end of this month to agree on a plan for the cleanup of the site, unless they agree on an extension. One plan discussed at the public meeting was the idea of putting a cap over the soil so that rainwater runoff will not wash MCHM into the Elk River. DEP and Freedom officials did not provide any information about sub-surface movement of water through the site, so we have no assurance that a surface cap will really control migration of MCHM from the site.

When DEP and Freedom do come up with their plan, they should provide the public with real answers to questions like:

  1. What actual numeric standard will be used as an acceptable concentration of MCHM at the site? Less than 100 ppm? Less than 1 ppm?
  2. If the plan is to put a cap over the site, what modeling of sub-surface water flows has been done to see whether there are other pathways for MCHM to get into the river?
  3. What testing will be done to ensure that the remediation is actually effective?

 
And, speaking of transparency, it would also be good to know at what level WV American Water’s new chemical monitoring equipment, due to be installed by the end of this month, can actually detect the various chemical constituents of MCHM.

Even after all that happened in January 2014, it is stunning to see that the officials at Freedom and the DEP still don’t seem to be taking seriously the fact that the former Freedom tank site lies 1.5 miles upstream from the only water intake for the only water treatment plant for 300,000 people.

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