Environmental Protection

West Virginia Agency Approves Freedom Industries' Tank Removal Plan

The plan calls for Tank 396, which leaked 4-Methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM) and PPH into the Elk River in January 2014, contaminating the potable water supply for 300,000 West Virginians, to be cleaned and sandblasted. The Chemical Safety Board will retain the floor section of the tank.

West Virginia's Department of Environmental Protection announced that it has approved Freedom Industries' initial Tank Decommission Plan for its Charleston, W.Va., facility, from which a chemical spill on Jan. 9 into the Elk River contaminated the potable water supply for 300,000 people living in West Virginia.

The plan was prepared for Freedom Industries by Civil & Environmental Consultants Inc., of Export, Pa. It lists the order of activities and the procedures and safeguards workers will use to begin removing all of the aboveground storage tanks at the facility, including tank No. 396 that leaked an estimated 10,000 gallons of 4-Methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM) and another chemical, PPH.

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin had ordered the company to begin dismantling, removing, and properly disposing of all of these tanks by March 15, as well as the associated piping and machinery at the site, and Freedom Industries agreed by signing a consent order.

"To comply with [the order], Freedom Industries has begun the process of decommissioning and cleaning its tanks for demolition. Most of the tanks' liquid inventory has been removed, with the exception of tank heel in a number of the ASTs. Tank heel is the product that remains in the bottom of storage tanks because it can't be removed through the normal pumping procedures. Freedom Industries also has conducted an asbestos survey to facilitate the demolition of the tanks and the associated infrastructure and will initiate a lead-based paint assessment in association with the ASTs," DEP's news release stated.

Tank 396 will be cleaned and sandblasted by the Chemical Safety Board; contractors will remove the floor section of the tank, which will be retained by the CSB, according to the release, which says dust and other airborne emissions from the property will be controlled as the tanks are dismantled, and on-site burning will not be permitted. "It is likely that MCHM odors associated with the site will increase as construction activities intensify at Freedom Industries," it says. "Efforts also will be made to control the infiltration of stormwater on site and to minimize its contact with other on-site and potentially contaminated water. Impervious liner materials will be used to cover areas exposed during tank removal operations. Workers also must take all steps necessary to prevent spills or releases to the ground or Elk River."

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